Gambling is an activity in which people wager something of value (such as money) on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. It can also be played with objects that have a monetary value, such as marbles or collectible cards in games like Magic: The Gathering and pogs.
Most of us have gambled at some point, whether it is buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on a sports event or using the pokies. Some people can walk away from these activities, having enjoyed the fun while it lasted, but others aren’t so lucky and end up losing more than they won. In some cases, this behaviour leads to gambling addiction.
Some people can’t stop gambling and it is these people who are most likely to become addicted. While it is possible to overcome a gambling addiction, it is important to recognise the signs and to seek help as soon as you realise there is a problem.
Gambling involves a number of psychological and financial factors that make it extremely addictive. For example, human beings are wired to feel more emotional about losses than they do about gains of equal value. Therefore, losing a PS10 note generates a much stronger reaction than finding PS10. This is why so many gamblers endlessly invest time and money into trying to ‘win back’ their losses. This behaviour is known as chasing losses and can lead to a vicious cycle of debt and loss.
In addition, when gambling is accompanied by a high-stress situation or environment it can activate the prefrontal cortex of the brain which can cause people to become irrational and more prone to making bad decisions. This can make it very difficult to recognise when a person’s gambling is out of control. It is also common for people who have a problem to hide their gambling habits and lie about how much money they spend on it.
The economic effects of gambling are well documented, but fewer studies have looked at the social impacts on gamblers and their significant others. These impacts can occur at the individual, interpersonal and community/society levels. They can include costs such as increased debt, strain on family members and the effects of escalating to bankruptcy or homelessness.
In addition to seeking help, people with a gambling addiction can try to minimise it by taking steps such as only betting with money they can afford to lose and by setting limits on the time and amount they will gamble. It is also important to remember that gambling is not a way to make money, and should be considered an expense rather than as a source of income. To find out more about the risks associated with gambling, take a look at our Safeguarding Courses. These courses will give you the knowledge and skills to safeguard vulnerable adults.