The Dangers of Gambling
Whether it’s buying lottery tickets, betting on football accumulators or scratchcards, or playing casino games, gambling is an activity where something of value is placed on a random event with the hope of winning money. This is different from skill-based activities such as video poker or card games, where strategies are used to improve chances of winning.
Gambling is a popular pastime and can be fun for many people, but for others it has serious consequences that impact their physical and mental health, relationships, work or study performance, and leave them in debt. In fact, some people have even died from problem gambling. The good news is that there are steps to help people stop or reduce their gambling.
The most effective way to deal with a problem is to seek professional help. This may include counselling, inpatient or residential treatment programs, and family, marriage and career therapy. A counsellor can help people understand the nature of their gambling disorder and give them tools to overcome it.
Longitudinal studies of gambling behavior are increasingly common and sophisticated, but they face several limitations: the huge costs involved; difficulties in retaining research team continuity over an extended period of time; and aging and period effects (e.g., changes in gambling interest with age). Despite these limitations, longitudinal research of problem gambling is becoming more common and will be important for the development of interventions.
Ultimately, a person’s gambling behavior is determined by a complex interaction of psychological, social and economic factors. A major contributing factor is a person’s genetics. People with a family history of gambling disorders have a greater chance of developing a problem themselves. This is true for all types of gambling, including lotteries, casino games, sports betting and horse racing.
In addition, a person’s environment and lifestyle contribute to the development of gambling problems. Some people have more access to casinos, racetracks and other gambling venues than others. Other factors include the availability of food and alcohol, television, internet and other forms of entertainment that can divert a person’s attention from gambling.
If you are thinking of gambling, consider your options carefully and only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have other recreational activities and hobbies to fill the gap left by gambling. Set a time limit and stick to it, and don’t try to recover your losses by gambling more than you have already lost. Try to play on weekdays, as they tend to be less busy than weekends at most casinos. Make sure you control your money by limiting the amount of cash that you carry with you, and by setting a budget for how much you will spend. Finally, do not use credit cards or take out loans to finance your gambling. The Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ has more tips. Talk to someone about your gambling issues, preferably a nonjudgmental family member or friend or a professional counsellor.