Gambling Addiction


Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is determined by chance. This could be placing a bet on a football team or buying a scratchcard.

Some people gamble for coping reasons, such as to feel better about themselves or to distract themselves from emotions like anxiety or depression. Others may be in financial crisis and turn to gambling to relieve their stress.


The legality of gambling varies from state to state, and varies greatly based on the nature of the game in question. For example, it is not considered illegal to place a bet on a professional football game in most states, but betting on college sports is illegal in many states.

The definition of gambling varies from state to state, but generally it is defined as the stake or risking of something of value upon a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, and with an understanding that one will receive something of value in the event of a specified outcome. This excludes bona fide business transactions based on the law of contracts, such as the purchase or sale of securities, commodities or life, health and accident insurance.

Most states have established laws regulating gambling, and most have set age restrictions for individuals who are allowed to participate in certain activities. In addition, federal regulations also exist that regulate gambling activities.


While many people who develop an addiction to gambling are considered responsible and dependable individuals, they can be impacted by various factors. These include genetic and neurological factors. Psychological risks also play a role. Individuals with a history of mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may be more at risk for developing a gambling addiction. Additionally, certain personality traits, such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking behaviours, can increase the risk of gambling addiction.

Until recently, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a type of impulse control disorder, a category that included kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). However, recent biological studies have uncovered similarities between pathological gambling and substance abuse, leading the American Psychiatric Association to propose moving pathological gambling into the behavioral addictions section in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Treatment for gambling addiction includes therapy and counselling. Behavioral therapy teaches patients to stop thinking about betting and to replace maladaptive coping mechanisms with healthier ones. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help gamblers confront irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a series of losses means that luck is on their side.


Gambling is an activity in which people risk money or something else of value on an activity with an uncertain outcome. Problem gambling is when this behavior causes negative consequences, such as deteriorating performance at work or school, arguments with family and friends or worries about money lost. It also is associated with poor health and mental illness.

Prevention strategies are important to reduce gambling harms, especially in online environments. However, these efforts must be complemented by harm reduction and indicated interventions for those who have already developed problems.

Research has shown that self-help interventions can be effective, but the results depend on the design and implementation of these programs. Interventions that involve guided self-help have a greater impact on outcomes than those that do not. These include workbooks accompanied by a telephone call from a helpline specialist, community health worker or therapist. They also can include motivational enhancement and motivational interviewing. These programs are often based on community-based practices and may be targeted to specific populations, such as youth, men or people of color, who have a higher risk for gambling-related harms.