What is Gambling?


Gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value on an event determined at least partly by chance in the hope of winning a prize. It can include anything from playing slot machines and bingo to betting on football accumulators and scratchcards.

Gambling can have harmful financial, social and emotional consequences. It can also increase the risk of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.


Gambling is an activity in which a person risks something of value, such as money or possessions, on the outcome of a game of chance. It can include anything from playing a lottery or betting on horse races to spinning the reels of a video lottery terminal (VLT). Gambling is not illegal, but it is frowned upon by many people.

Problem gambling is a serious issue that causes a wide range of negative consequences. However, there is no robust and internationally agreed definition of harm associated with gambling and current measures that specifically target this issue are often inadequate, such as proxies for gambling behaviour or the use of diagnostic criteria.

The Queensland definition of gambling harm focuses on a range of impacts and consequences, including those that impact the safety or wellbeing of gamblers or their family and friends, and extends to legacy and intergenerational effects. This broadening of the focus reflects an understanding that harms are socially constructed, consistent with the public health approach to measuring health outcomes, and that gambling harm is not restricted to those who meet diagnostic criteria for disordered gambling.


Traditionally gambling has been considered any game of chance where someone risks their money or belongings. This includes card games, fruit machines and video-draw poker, two-up, baccarat, roulette and betting on sports events or elections (as long as the odds are fair). It also includes lottery games, instant scratch cards and bingo. However emerging technology has blurred the lines, resulting in a new generation of gambling games like online casino and football accumulators.

Although it is impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of gambling, there are signs that people have been placing informal bets on anything since the beginning of civilization. This does not necessarily mean using money; bets can be made over things like who has to do the dishes! In the past, some societies have banned gambling. Others have actively encouraged it. For example, the early 20th century saw the rise of coffee houses which grew into the stock market and London’s famous betting markets.


People with gambling disorders spend more time on gambling than they should, often neglecting other responsibilities such as work or school. They may also develop large debts, lie to friends and family or steal to fund their habit.

It is important to recognize a gambling disorder in a loved one, and to act on it as early as possible. A person who has a gambling disorder will often deny that they have a problem, so it is important to speak to them privately about the issue and tell them how it affects you.

Gamblers with gambling addiction will often try to hide the extent of their problem, and they can become irritable, restless or agitated when confronted about their behavior. Some people will even start to feel the physical symptoms of withdrawal, similar to those of alcohol and drug addicts. It is also important to recognize that a gambling addiction is often caused by underlying psychological or avoidance issues, and treatment will include counseling for those other issues.


Gambling addiction can be treated much like substance abuse or other impulse control disorders, such as kleptomania or pyromania. It can be treated with counseling, relapse prevention therapy and medication.

Talking with a counselor can help you address unhealthy internal and family dynamics, and learn better coping skills. Counseling can also help you think through options and solutions. You may be able to find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions and boredom, such as exercising, socializing with non-gambling friends, taking up new hobbies or practicing relaxation techniques.

Residential treatment programs, which provide intensive rehab at a facility, can help you overcome gambling addiction. In addition to group and one-on-one therapy, these programs may include relapse prevention and cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. Some studies show that relapse prevention in combination with imaginal desensitization reduces key gambling urges effectively. Medication can also be used to help treat depression and anxiety, which often accompany compulsive gambling. These medications are usually prescribed by a psychiatrist.