Is Gambling Problematic?

Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intent to win another item of value. Unlike some types of activities such as sports events or purchasing lottery tickets, where people use strategies, gambling relies on the element of chance and the player’s luck. People gamble for many reasons. For some it is a fun social activity with friends and family. Others find it an entertaining way to relieve boredom or stress. Still others overindulge and incur debts that impair their ability to support their families. Regardless of the reason, more than 20 percent of people are addicted to gambling and need help.

Gambling is a huge industry with millions of people working in casinos, bookmakers and online sites. It is a multi-billion dollar business. The profits made by these businesses are used to invest in other sectors of the economy, such as construction, retail and tourism. The profits also contribute to local economies through taxes and other sources of revenue.

While it is clear that gambling has positive economic impacts, it is also important to consider its costs and negative effects. The negative impacts of gambling can be structuralized into three categories: financial, labor and health and well-being. These impacts manifest at personal, interpersonal and societal/ community levels.

The negative financial impacts of gambling include increased debt, poor decision making and loss of control over spending. In addition, it has been found that gambling can lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness. This is why it’s important for people who have a problem to seek treatment and not ignore their symptoms.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating gambling problems. Psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians frame their questions about gambling differently, depending on their disciplinary training, experience and world view. These diverse perspectives have led to a wide variety of opinions on whether or not gambling is problematic, and what the causes might be.

Gambling can be addictive because of the pleasure that is derived from winning and the risk of losing. It can also become an escape from other worries and concerns and can be a distraction for people who are grieving or depressed. In addition, people who are prone to addiction may have genetic or psychological predispositions to developing the behaviour.

In 2013, pathological gambling was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as an addictive disorder, comparable with substance addiction. It is important to remember that gambling is a behaviour that can be controlled, so those who are concerned about a loved one should consider seeking help. The good news is that most people who gamble do so responsibly and enjoy it as an entertaining diversion. But it is important to remember that the remaining 20 percent overindulge and end up in significant debts, often causing family members financial difficulties and escalating into bankruptcy and homelessness. To avoid getting into these situations, it’s advisable to speak with a debt expert such as StepChange before starting to gamble.