Gambling involves risking something valuable on an event that is determined, at least in part, by chance. The gambler hopes that he or she will win and gain something of value. Many people think of casinos and slot machines when they hear the word gambling, but it’s important to remember that a lot of gambling takes place outside of these settings. For example, playing bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, and betting on office pools are all forms of gambling.

A person may have a gambling problem when he or she:

(1) has a preoccupation with gambling; (2) increases wager sizes to maintain excitement levels when gambling; (3) tries repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control gambling; (4) experiences restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling; (5) uses gambling as a means of escaping problems or depressed moods; (6) attempts to regain losses through continued betting; (7) lies to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of his or her gambling activities; (8) engages in illegal acts (e.g., forgery, fraud, embezzlement) to finance gambling; 9) jeopardizes or loses a relationship, job, educational opportunity, or financial security because of gambling; or 10) relies on others to help manage a desperate financial situation caused by gambling. (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

While gambling is mostly a game of chance, some skills can reduce the likelihood of losing. For example, a person’s knowledge of card games or horses may help them make better predictions about the probable outcomes of a race. In general, however, most people who gamble do not possess the skills to overcome their addictions.

Research has shown that some people become addicted to gambling even when they are playing for fun and not for money. Although the reason for this is unknown, some researchers believe that the addiction can be triggered by certain genetic and environmental factors. Other researchers have suggested that the addiction is a result of poor judgment, diminished mathematical skills, or cognitive distortions.

Some researchers have used longitudinal studies to investigate the onset, development, and maintenance of problem gambling behavior. This type of study allows researchers to examine how individual respondents’ behavior changes over time and how their behaviors compare with those of other respondents in the same cohort.

Understanding why you gamble can help you change your behavior. It’s common for people to gamble as a way of self-soothing unpleasant feelings, such as boredom or loneliness. However, you can find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. You can also try taking up a new hobby or joining a support group. A popular option is Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and offers guidance and support to people who are struggling with gambling addiction.