Gambling 101

Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident or have an unexpected outcome by reason of the bettor’s miscalculation. It includes all types of wagering on games, contests, and events. It also encompasses the use of money, credit cards, electronics and computer technology to place bets.

In the United States, there are two main kinds of gambling: legal and illegal. Both have serious social and psychological effects on people. The practice of gambling is controversial because it promotes fantasy, wealth, and delusions of grandeur for some and contributes to poverty, bankruptcy, crime, and family and personal ruin for others. In recent years, the popularity of gambling has increased in the United States because of a number of factors, including the Depression of the 1930s, which caused people to place an inordinate emphasis on their personal finances; economic turmoil in the 1970s that contributed to the growth of businesses based on the bottom line; and technical advances in communications, including computers and Internet.

There are four main reasons why people gamble: for social, financial, emotional, and entertainment reasons. The majority of people who play casino games do so for social and emotional reasons, such as meeting friends or chatting with fellow players. Other people play for financial reasons, such as winning a jackpot that will change their lifestyle. Some people play for the excitement of winning and to experience a rush or “high”.

Problem gambling involves one or more of the following: (1) preoccupation with gambling; (2) the escalation of gambling involvement in an attempt to compensate for losses; (3) lying to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; (4) making excuses to justify excessive gambling; and (5) relying on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling. Problem gambling can also cause the bettor to jeopardize or lose a job, career, education, or a relationship.

The onset of problematic gambling can be triggered by many factors, but the most common cause is an underlying mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. In addition, certain situations can trigger gambling behavior, such as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or being in a state of low self-esteem. It is important to understand the causes and consequences of gambling so that you can take action if needed. You can find more information on this topic in the Taking Action section of our Help Guide. You can also contact us for confidential help with any concerns you have about gambling. Alternatively, you can visit our FAQs page to learn more about the risks and benefits of gambling. We offer confidential help over the telephone and online, and we welcome referrals from healthcare professionals. We are dedicated to the prevention of gambling addiction. Our goal is to help you and your family live the life that God intended.