What is Gambling?


Discuss your gambling with someone you trust who won’t judge you – a friend, family member or professional counsellor. Reduce financial risk factors such as credit cards, keeping large amounts of cash on hand, or using gambling venues to socialise.

Find healthier and more effective ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.


Gambling is risking something of value on an event that depends at least in part upon chance, with the hope of gaining something of value. Most often, the stake is money, but can also be other possessions such as food or personal belongings. The person who gambles is a gambler.

In the US, there are many gambling opportunities available, including casinos, lotteries, and online gaming. In addition, some people play games of chance in their own homes. These games may include bingo, scratch cards and even office pools.

While most people who gamble do not have a problem, some develop an addiction to gambling. This is called pathological gambling or gambling addiction. In the US, this disorder is classified as a behavioral addiction in the DSM-5 and is comparable to substance abuse in terms of comorbidity and physiology. Studies have shown that depression is common among pathological gamblers and can precede or follow their gambling behavior.


Gambling has been a part of human culture for millennia. It was used as a way to settle disputes, as a way of divining answers, and to connect with fate. It is also mentioned in the Bible, with a famous example being the casting of lots for the garment that wrapped Jesus during his crucifixion.

It was a common pastime in Ancient China where indications of rudimentary games of chance have been found on tiles, Egypt where betting on animal fights was common, and the Roman empire who loved to bet on sporting events. It even became a popular pastime in England where the aristocracy would wager away their estates and titles. It was not until the 1600’s that controlled gambling environments, known as casinos, began to pop up in Europe and later the United States. It has now grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. This is despite the fact that many people struggle with gambling addictions.


In the United States, gambling is legal if it follows a set of rules established by state law. State laws prohibit or regulate certain types of gambling and require players to be over the age of 21. In addition, the federal government has a variety of laws regulating gambling activities on Native American land and other areas.

The Department of Justice has jurisdiction to prosecute illegal gambling enterprises. Its agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Office of the Inspector General. They also collaborate with other federal and local agencies. In addition, federal prosecutors can investigate organized crime syndicates and international online gambling operations.

Gambling is widespread in the United States, but it is subject to many laws at the local and state levels. Some state laws ban or limit certain types of gambling, while others make it a crime to participate in some kinds of gambling activities. A growing number of lawmakers are softening their state laws to allow sports betting and other forms of gambling.


Gambling activates the brain’s reward system by stimulating the production and release of feel-good chemicals, and people become addicted to this feeling. They experience euphoria while gambling, which helps mask negative emotions and provides a distraction from problems. When they stop gambling, the brain’s reward system drops these levels back to normal and their emotions become dysregulated.

In addition to affecting the gambler, their family may suffer. A spouse of a compulsive gambler often feels betrayed after discovering their addiction, especially if they’ve lied about their gambling or used money meant for other purposes to support their habit.

In one study, family members were the leading motivation for people with gambling disorder to seek help. Other important factors included financial issues and the person’s ability to cope with their addiction. Counseling can help the gambler explore how their addiction impacts them, and address other underlying problems like depression or anxiety. Taking care of one’s own needs is also critical for recovery. Consider seeking a financial mentor through Savvy Ladies, which connects women with Certified Financial Planner volunteers for a confidential phone call and advice.