Problem Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. It requires three elements to be present: consideration, risk and a prize. Gambling can take place in a variety of places, including casinos, racetracks and on the Internet. Gambling may also be done with materials that have a value but are not money, such as marbles or collectible game pieces (like Magic: The Gathering cards or Pogs).

Problem gambling changes how your brain responds to rewards and increases your risks of injury and harm. It affects your ability to stop and to think rationally. It can also interfere with your relationships, work or study. People with problem gambling are more likely to end up in debt, experiencing mental health problems and even becoming homeless. They may also suffer from family and relationship difficulties and poor health, and are often in trouble with the law.

When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy and excited. However, in problematic gambling the dopamine pathway is hijacked and your brain learns to reward you just for putting money down – whether you win or lose. This is why you may find yourself continuing to gamble, despite the consequences.

Many of the things that can lead to problematic gambling have to do with an individual’s emotions, needs or circumstances. People may gamble to escape from their financial worries, to make friends, to socialise or to have a fun night out. They may also be in a bad mood or depressed, grieving or looking for meaning in their lives.

There are a number of ways that people can get help and support for problematic gambling. There are organisations that offer counselling, support and advice to people affected by gambling, their families and friends. They can also help people to control their gambling or stop it altogether. They may also be able to offer help and support for other problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse.

Gambling can be an enjoyable and exciting activity, but it is important to know your limits and to stop when you have lost too much money. You should always start with a fixed amount that you are willing to lose and never use your credit card in a casino or on the Internet. It is also a good idea to avoid the free cocktails and only buy drinks with cash or chips. It is important to tip your dealers regularly, either by handing them a chip and saying “This is for you,” or by placing a bet for them. Lastly, it is a good idea to leave your ATM card in your hotel room, so you can’t access more money. This will prevent you from chasing your losses and potentially losing more. You should also never think you are due for a big win or that you can get back the money you’ve lost. This is called the “gambler’s fallacy.”