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What is Gambling?

What is Gambling?


Gambling is an activity where a person stakes something of value on the outcome of a future contingent event not under his or her control or influence, and for which he or she has no personal skill. This includes betting on sports events, buying lottery tickets, playing games of chance such as roulette, poker and horse racing, and wagering money or items of value in a casino. It does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts (such as purchase or sale at a future date of securities and commodities, and contracts of indemnity or guaranty), or games in which skills can be applied to improve a person’s chances of winning (such as golfing and bridge).

The most common form of gambling is placing a bet on the outcome of an event that is either wholly or partially determined by chance, such as a football match or scratchcard game. The risk of losing is weighed against the possible gain, often in terms of a fixed amount, and a choice is made. This choice is usually matched to ‘odds’ set by the betting company – which will indicate how much someone could win or lose on that particular bet.

A large number of people are addicted to gambling and it is a very serious problem. Those with gambling addictions are likely to experience a wide range of negative effects, including financial, emotional, family and work related problems. Some people may even attempt suicide as a result of a gambling problem.

People who have a gambling addiction often try to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling and may lie to family members, therapists or others about how much they gamble. In addition, they may also engage in illegal activities, such as forgery, fraud or theft, to hide the extent of their involvement with gambling. People with a gambling addiction often feel powerless to control their urges and find it difficult to stop.

It is important to understand that the most significant step in overcoming gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. It takes great strength and courage to do this, particularly if you have already lost a lot of money or have strained relationships as a result of your gambling habit. However, it is possible to overcome gambling addiction, and there are many different treatments available.

The most effective approach to treating a gambling disorder is a comprehensive, integrated treatment program that incorporates behavioural therapy and psychological therapies with support services for both the person who gambles and the affected family members. The concept of harm minimisation is central to the development of these treatments. A consistent definition of harm, however, remains a challenge. Until we have a clearer understanding of the breadth and nature of harm experienced by those with a gambling disorder, it is unlikely that treatment outcomes will be as effective as they could be.