Gambling is the wagering of money or something of value (e.g., goods) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance with the primary intent of winning additional money or material goods. It includes betting on sports, games of chance, and casino games. Gambling also encompasses the use of ‘altered gambling equipment’, which means any device that has been altered to increase the chances of winning.

People gamble for many reasons, including to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, relax and socialize, or as a way of rewarding themselves. But it’s important to remember that gambling is not a lucrative way to make money – and you can end up losing more than you win. If you have problems with gambling, there are ways to get help. You can speak to a debt adviser at StepChange, or you can seek professional help from a therapist or a gambling support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.

Problematic gambling may be caused by a variety of factors, such as unmanaged mood disorders, substance abuse, or stress. The most common symptoms of problematic gambling include:

Being preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts about reliving past gambling experiences, analyzing or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble). Frequently gambling when feeling distressed (e.g., after a bad day at work or after an argument with a loved one). Returning another day to try to get even (chasing losses). Lying to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity, or financial security because of gambling.

A person with a problem with gambling is often surrounded by others who also struggle with the addiction. This can lead to isolation and feelings of shame, guilt, and depression. To overcome a gambling problem, it is recommended that you seek support from family and friends, join a community or peer group, and practice healthy coping mechanisms. For example, instead of gambling, you can spend time with friends who don’t gamble, exercise, take up a new hobby, or practice relaxation techniques. If you’re concerned about someone else’s gambling, you can contact the Responsible Gambling Council for advice. They can also refer you to a local treatment provider.