Preventing Gambling Problems

Taking risks for the hope of winning money is an exciting activity for many people, but it can also be dangerous. Gambling can lead to serious problems for some, including substance abuse and mental illness. It can also have negative social effects. A few simple steps can help prevent gambling problems.

Gambling involves betting on the outcome of a game involving chance, such as scratchcards or fruit machines, lottery games, casino table games and football accumulators. It can also involve speculating on business, insurance or stock markets, as well as placing bets with friends.

People gamble in a range of settings, from commercial casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City to sports arenas, bingo rooms and online. The growth of technology has made it even easier to gamble, with mobile phone applications, internet betting sites and video games featuring gambling elements. Sports betting has become legal in a number of states, and online gaming platforms allow players to gamble around the clock.

There is a common misconception that gambling is an entertaining pastime, but in reality it is a high-risk, low reward activity that often results in financial loss. The odds always favour the house and the thrill of a potential win is overshadowed by the risk of losing. Those who have problems with gambling are more likely to be young people, men and those with lower incomes. People with mental health issues are also more vulnerable to gambling addiction.

Pathological gambling as a national problem emerged in the early 1970s and has continued to increase since then. Traditional explanations by psychologists and psychiatrists attribute the rise to personal psychological factors, but this is unlikely to explain such a large rise in the numbers of people becoming pathological gamblers. Other non-psychological changes must have facilitated this increase, such as technological advancements and social factors.

Gambling harm is a complex issue and it can affect everyone. It is important to speak out about gambling harm and seek support.

Often, gambling is a hidden activity that takes place in secret. It can be hard to admit that you have a gambling problem, especially if you’re worried about the impact on your family or work life.

The best way to address a gambling problem is to talk openly with friends and family, and join a self-help group like Gamblers Anonymous. It’s also important to get support for yourself and to make other healthy choices in your life. You could try exercising, reading a book or talking on the phone to a trusted friend. Some research has shown that physical activity can help to reduce the urge to gamble. You can also get help by calling a helpline, visiting a gambling clinic or going to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. It is also a good idea to control your finances by getting rid of credit cards and putting someone else in charge of your money. You can learn more about managing your money on the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’.