Gambling is when people risk money or something of value to predict the outcome of a game of chance. This can include buying a lottery ticket, betting on sporting events or using a slot machine. If you win, you get a prize and if you lose, you lose the money you gambled.
The word ‘gambling’ can also be used to describe any risky action, such as gambling on stock markets or betting with friends. It can be as simple as a single person or group predicting success or failure and winning or losing money, or it can be more complex such as an investment in a new technology which might have high demand in the future.
In some areas, governments have introduced gambling in order to boost local economies. They claim that it increases the value of their currencies and attracts visitors from outside the area, thereby generating tax revenue. However, critics argue that gambling can damage society and is more likely to harm people than to benefit them.
Many people who gamble have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or stress. These problems can make gambling more difficult to control and even lead to a problem if it becomes a compulsive habit.
A small number of people develop a problem with gambling that causes serious problems with their work and family life, often resulting in debt. This is called ‘problem gambling’ and can be treated with support.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for problem gambling. It helps people to stop using gambling as a way of coping with emotions and problems, and to replace unhealthy beliefs with healthier ones.
It can help you to identify and change faulty thinking, such as the idea that a string of losses signals an upcoming win or that certain rituals will bring luck. CBT can also teach you how to overcome cravings and deal with money problems and relationship issues caused by problem gambling.
You can learn more about problem gambling and its effects on your mental health by talking to your GP. They can check if you are a problem gambler, and if so, they will recommend treatment. They may suggest medications, therapy and lifestyle changes.
There are also a range of support groups you can join, such as Gamblers Anonymous and StepChange. These groups provide free confidential support and advice.
Whether you are a problem gambler or just have a flutter from time to time, it is important to set yourself limits on how much you can spend and when to stop. This will ensure that you are not spending too much and that your gambling is not causing you harm.
If you are worried about your own gambling or the gambling of someone close to you, speak to a counsellor or contact the free and impartial helpline for advice. You can also speak to a Gambling Helpline Advisor or visit the website of your local charity for more information.