Gambling occurs when a person stakes something valuable for the chance of winning a prize. This could be money, goods or services. People often gamble in places such as casinos, racetracks or online. There are different types of gambling – for example, poker and blackjack are skill-based games, while slot machines and keno rely on chance. Some types of gambling are illegal in some countries.
Problem gambling can have negative impacts at the personal, interpersonal and community/societal level. These include financial, labor, health and well-being, family, and social consequences such as bankruptcy, crime and relationship strain. Some of these impacts have long-term effects that change a person’s life course and may even pass between generations.
Scientists have discovered that gambling, like drugs of abuse, changes the way the brain’s reward and motivation systems work. They have found that people who regularly gamble experience changes in their brain’s activity and are more likely to be impulsive. They also tend to lose control of their finances.
It is possible to overcome a problem with gambling, but this can be hard. The first step is to recognise that you have a problem and seek help. There are a number of options available, including counselling, self-help books and support groups. Having supportive family members can also be helpful. It is important to learn to cope with unpleasant feelings in healthier ways – for example, by exercising or spending time with friends who don’t gamble.