Gambling 101

Gambling involves placing something of value at risk on a random event for the chance to win. Whether it’s money, material goods or services, such as hotel rooms and free cocktails, gambling involves the risk of losing what is being staked. The gambler must be able to control their emotions and rationalize the risk.

Historically, gambling has been considered immoral and illegal. However, the understanding of gambling has undergone a significant change. For example, pathological gambling is now recognized as a psychological problem and, like substance abuse, has been classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (called DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The majority of gambling occurs at casinos, but it can also happen at gas stations, church halls and sporting events. Many governments regulate gambling through laws and regulations that establish legal definitions, limits, restrictions and requirements.

Gambling often happens when people are experiencing feelings of boredom or loneliness and need a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, relieve stress and/or socialize. Other healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings include exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, reading, taking up new hobbies or volunteering.

If you are concerned that a family member has a gambling problem, seek help and support. Reach out to others with similar problems and consider a peer support program like Gamblers Anonymous. It’s important to set boundaries in managing money and prevent impulsive spending by getting rid of credit cards, having someone else manage them, closing online betting accounts and keeping only a small amount of cash with you. Never chase your losses – thinking you are due for a big win and can recoup lost money by increasing your wagers is known as the gambler’s fallacy.