Gambling is risking something of value, with consciousness of the risks and hope of gain, on an event determined at least in part by chance. It includes betting on sports, games of skill such as bridge or chess, and lottery-type activities such as bingo or buying scratch-off tickets. It also includes betting on an uncertain future event such as a horse race or a political election.
When gambling is done for fun and not for profit, it can be a great way to socialize with friends, meet new people or just get away from the stress of everyday life. However, when problems develop, it becomes no longer about entertainment and can become a source of addiction.
Problem gambling changes the reward pathway in your brain, triggering an uncontrollable desire to win and keep playing. It can be difficult to stop because, like other addictive behaviors, gambling triggers a neurotransmitter called dopamine that makes you feel good when you are winning. This is a useful response when you are practicing a new skill, but for gamblers, it can be dangerously addictive.
Problematic gambling can cause many negative impacts, including increased debt and financial stress for the gambler, and escalating into bankruptcy and homelessness. These impacts can be observed on a personal level, interpersonally or at a community/society level. In the context of public health, negative gambling impacts can be measured using disability weights, which consider a person’s burden of illness and their quality of life.