Gambling and Its Dangerous Effects


Gambling is a wagering activity that involves placing something of value (usually money) on an event with an element of chance and the potential for winning a substantial prize. Some of the most popular forms of gambling include lottery tickets, casino games, poker, blackjack, bingo, keno, horse racing, sports events, and scratch cards.

Gambling can lead to serious problems when a person is not in control of their behaviour and loses significant amounts of money or valuables, jeopardizes a relationship, job or educational opportunity, or has a negative impact on their health. In addition, some people become dependent on gambling and experience symptoms similar to those of a substance use disorder (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

The earliest evidence of gambling dates back to ancient China. Tiles discovered in the Qin dynasty (2,300 B.C.) depicted a rudimentary game of chance that may have been based on drawing numbers. Today, millions of Americans gamble, with an estimated 0.4-1.6% meeting diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling (PG). PG typically develops during adolescence or young adulthood and is more common in men than in women. PG is more likely to be associated with strategic and face-to-face forms of gambling than with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive types, such as video slots or bingo.

Many of the same things that can trigger and contribute to gambling disorders – such as depression, anxiety, stress or a financial crisis – are also the same factors that can help people overcome them. Seek help and support from friends and family, or find a peer group like Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous.