Gambling involves placing something of value (typically money) at risk on an event that is at least partly determined by chance, in the hope of winning a greater prize. It is a common activity, and many people gamble at some point in their lives. In some countries, gambling is a major source of income. However, some people become addicted to gambling and experience harm as a result.
While most people understand that there is an element of luck in any casino game or other form of gambling, many are not aware of the full definition of gambling. Buying lottery tickets, playing bingo or other games, using pokies or slot machines, betting on horse races or sports events, and even collecting marbles or trading cards can be considered forms of gambling. Gambling is an important international commercial industry, and people around the world wager on various events with the hope of winning a large sum of money or other valuable items.
In addition, there is a growing number of online casinos and poker rooms that allow players to participate in the activities of gambling without going to brick-and-mortar establishments. This trend has led to increased attention by regulators and the general public on this issue. Some online gambling sites offer players bonuses to play their games, which can also have a negative impact on problem gamblers.
The DSM-5 has reclassified pathological gambling as an addictive disorder, reflecting research showing that this condition is similar to substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and treatment options (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Symptoms of this disorder include preoccupation with gambling; attempts to control gambling behaviours through repeated unsuccessful efforts; restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling; lying to family members, therapists, or employers to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; attempts to regain lost money through continued betting (“chasing” losses); jeopardized relationships or job opportunities to engage in gambling; and reliance on others to fund gambling activities (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
Compulsive gambling can occur in individuals of all ages and sexes, but it is most prevalent among young adults. Some studies have shown that women tend to start gambling later in life and may develop a compulsive gambling pattern more quickly than men. In the early stages of compulsive gambling, symptoms include feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression; frequent or persistent loss; and thoughts about gambling or ways to make money. Symptoms of an addiction to gambling often escalate over time, and this is especially true for the most serious forms of the disease. Longitudinal studies provide a unique opportunity to understand the onset and progression of harmful gambling behaviors. These studies have the potential to lead to a better understanding of the factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation, thereby enabling researchers to design more effective prevention and intervention strategies.