Gambling can be a fun way to pass the time but can also become addictive and harmful. When gambling is a problem it can affect several areas of your life including your relationships, finances, and physical and mental health. It can also affect your work and studies, and your legal rights.
There are many signs that you or someone you know may have a gambling problem. It is important to identify them so that they can receive help and support.
The first step is to understand what gambling is and how it works. This will help you recognise if your loved one has a gambling problem and can be an important starting point for discussion.
For a person to gamble, there needs to be three key components: consideration, risk and a prize. The most common form of gambling is betting on a sporting event, although there are other forms of gambling such as lottery and online poker. In order to bet, you have to choose an event that is matched to ‘odds’, which are the odds set by the betting company and which determine how much money you could win if you won.
In some countries, a lot of money is wagered through lotteries and organised football pools. Other forms of gambling include betting on sports such as horse racing and greyhound races, as well as casino games such as roulette and slots.
It is estimated that there are over $10 trillion in gambling activities worldwide, with most of this being conducted within casinos. Despite this figure, there are several forms of gambling which take place outside casinos.
There are four main reasons why people gamble: for social, financial, entertainment and coping reasons.
Social – This is often a reason for people to gamble as it makes them feel good about themselves and allows them to forget about their problems.
Financial – This is often a reason for gambling as it can be very exciting to win large sums of money.
Entertainment – This is often a reason for playing casino games and scratchcards as they can be very enjoyable.
Coping – This is often a reason for players to gamble as they may need to escape a stressful situation or because it is an easy way to relax.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for addiction and can be used to help a person with a gambling problem change their negative thoughts and behaviours about gambling.
If you believe that your loved one is having a problem with gambling, encourage them to seek professional help and advice as soon as possible. This can be through a specialist treatment centre, a self-help group or through the help of their family and friends.
You can also support them by reducing their exposure to the temptation of gambling and by teaching them how to handle any negative consequences that might be associated with their gambling. For example, if they have been winning money regularly, you can encourage them to cut back and save any extra cash for a special event, such as a holiday.