What Is Gambling?


Gambling involves risking something of value – money, chips or other material possessions – on an uncertain outcome in games of chance. It’s also known as ‘hazardous behaviour’ because it increases your risks of harming yourself or others. People gamble for many reasons. For some it is a way to socialize with friends, or to take their mind off problems; for others, winning the jackpot would change their lives forever. The brain’s reward system is triggered by gambling, so it can be addictive.

Some people are predisposed to gambling addiction because they’re more impulsive, or have an underactive brain reward system. The environment and community in which you live can also influence your exposure to gambling, and whether you develop a problem.

Most people think of casino and online gambling when they think about gambling, but there are also many other types of gambling. Private gambling is often conducted in a home setting, with family or friends wagering money or chips on games like poker, blackjack or bridge. Other games of chance include marbles, keno and pogs. These are more likely to be considered gambling if they involve placing a bet with real money, but can be played with simulated money too.

People who develop an addiction to gambling will often start to borrow from other sources, such as credit cards or other friends or family members, to pay for their losses. If someone is unable to repay their debts, it can lead to bankruptcy. It’s important for friends and family to recognise when someone starts to use debt as a cover and to help them find treatment.