The Dangers of Gambling

Gambling involves risking something of value (usually money) on an event with some element of chance, and the possibility of winning a prize. There are many different ways to gamble including betting on sporting events, horse races, games of chance such as lottery tickets and scratchcards, and even playing online casino games.

While most people engage in gambling as a social activity, for some it becomes an unhealthy addiction with serious personal, family and financial consequences. Problem gambling can cause emotional distress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. It can also affect relationships, employment and education. There is a growing understanding that some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, which can make them more susceptible to developing a gambling addiction. These individuals may have an underactive brain reward system, and difficulty controlling impulses or weighing risk.

Despite the fact that most people who gamble do so responsibly, there are a number of signs and symptoms that can indicate a gambling problem:

A person who is worried about their own or someone else’s gambling habit should talk to a friend, family member or professional counsellor. If you are concerned that your gambling is out of control, try to cut down on how much you gamble and find new things to do with your spare time. It is also important to be in control of your finances, so avoid carrying around large amounts of cash and credit cards, and keep your gambling activities separate from other spending.

It is also a good idea to seek help for any underlying mood disorders, as these can trigger or be made worse by compulsive gambling. Seek the advice of your GP or a specialist, or call the Better Health Channel for referrals to support services.

In addition to the negative personal and social effects of gambling, it can be illegal. If you are convicted of a misdemeanour, the penalty can include up to a year in jail and fines; while a felony conviction may lead to a prison sentence and substantial fines. A court can also order that a convicted criminal attend treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Gambling has always been associated with organised crime, swindling, bribery and corruption, and it continues to be so in many countries today. It has been linked to political instability and a culture of greed, power and prestige. It is often considered a ‘vice’, along with drugs and alcohol. Gambling can take many forms, from organised football pools to state-licensed lotteries. The world’s total legal annual turnover from gambling is estimated to be around $10 trillion.