Gambling involves risking money or material possessions on an uncertain outcome – whether it’s the roll of a dice, the spin of a roulette wheel, or the results of a horse race. Historically, it was considered immoral and often illegal. However, today, more people are beginning to see gambling as a fun and rewarding form of recreation, and there are now many legal regulations that help protect consumers, maintain fairness, and prevent exploitation.
While the vast majority of gamblers are not problem gamblers, some are. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, up to 5% of adults develop a gambling disorder, with the highest prevalence among those in their early 20s. This group is particularly susceptible to developing gambling problems because they have more to lose and can develop their addiction at a much faster rate than older people.
Problem gambling can have long-term effects on an individual’s quality of life and can even pass between generations. Problem gamblers may also experience other mental health and behavioural problems, such as a lack of interest in work and relationships, poor diet, sleep disturbances, and substance abuse. It’s important to recognize these signs and seek help if you suspect that you or someone you know has a gambling disorder.
Research suggests that the most vulnerable groups for developing a gambling disorder are young people, women, and those with low incomes. Problem gamblers are more likely to be men, and the majority of them begin to gamble before they’re 18. While there is no single type of gambling that is more addictive than others, it is important to set limits on how much you can spend and stick to those limits. In addition, you can also help yourself by avoiding online betting websites, and always leaving your credit cards at home.
Gambling has social and economic impacts that affect not only the gambler but their significant others, friends, coworkers, and society at large. These impacts can be measured at the personal, interpersonal, and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Personal impacts influence the gambler directly, while interpersonal impacts involve those close to the gambler. Finally, community/society impacts concern those who are not necessarily the gamblers themselves, and can include costs or benefits that aggregate societal real wealth (Williams, et al., 2010).
The best way to minimize your risk of gambling addiction is to strengthen your support network. This can be done by spending time with friends who don’t play casinos or other gambling-related activities, joining a book club or sports team, taking a class, volunteering, or finding a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous. It’s also important to keep in mind that gambling is a lot like alcohol or tobacco, and the more you use it, the harder it is to quit. Therefore, you should always be prepared to stop whenever you want, and you should not gamble if it’s causing you to feel depressed or anxious. Lastly, it’s a good idea to always tip your dealers and cocktail waitresses – either by handing them a chip or placing it on the table.