What is Gambling?

Gambling is wagering something of value on a random event in the hopes of winning something else of value. It requires three elements: consideration, risk and a prize. In some cases, gambling is considered to be a problem and can result in serious financial problems, family problems and even criminal activity. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition towards thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, which can also impact how they process reward information, control impulses and weigh risks.

Like other activities such as eating, sex and drugs, gambling can trigger a pleasure response in the brain by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine. However, unlike other addictions, gambling often has a positive social element and can provide a sense of community.

People gamble in many ways – from betting on football matches to buying scratchcards. The choices they make are matched to ‘odds’, which determine the chances of winning. This uncertainty plays a key role in gambling’s attraction, as dopamine is released when the potential reward is uncertain.

While some gamble responsibly, others are unable to stop and become addicted. There are a number of signs that someone might be struggling with gambling problems, including chasing their losses and hiding evidence of their gambling activities. If you recognise any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help. Counselling can help you understand gambling, identify triggers and develop healthy coping strategies. In addition, support groups can be a valuable source of information and advice.