Gambling is an activity where people risk money or other items of value with the objective of winning something that they can either keep or sell. It can include games such as poker, roulette, dice or bingo, betting on horse and greyhound races, football accumulators, elections or lotteries, as well as speculating on business, insurance or stock markets. It is an important part of many cultures and forms a significant economic activity.

In most cases, gambling is not a problem when it is used in moderation and responsibly. However, there are some people who have a real problem and need help to control their gambling. There are several organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling for those with a gambling problem and their families.

It can be difficult to recognise if you have a problem with gambling. Some people may try to minimise their gambling or lie about how much time and money they are spending on it. They might also start to rely on others for money and may jeopardise relationships, employment or education opportunities. Some people may even become suicidal as a result of their gambling.

If you have a problem with gambling, seek professional help as soon as possible. Counselling can help you to understand the behaviour and think about how it affects your life. It can also help you find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and cope with boredom. For example, you might consider taking up a new hobby, socialising with friends who do not gamble or exercising.

Many of the same factors that encourage gambling are also present in other addictive behaviours, such as drug addiction or over-eating. These include the desire to experience pleasurable sensations, the rewards of a win and the reinforcement of the behaviour by the repetition of it. It is thought that the higher the reward of a win, the more resistant it will be to extinction (the process of learning that a behaviour no longer rewards you).

Research shows that people who are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking and impulsivity may have an underactive brain reward system, resulting in a greater propensity for gambling. In addition, some researchers have linked gambling to mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. The culture of a community can also influence views about gambling and what constitutes a problem, making it harder to recognize a disorder. Various models and theories have been advanced to explain pathological gambling, including behavioral-environmental reasons, a general theory of addictions and the reward deficiency syndrome. Biological explanations for the development of gambling disorders are also under active investigation.