Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (like money or goods) on an event that is purely based on chance. This can be done by betting on a football match or buying a scratchcard. It involves taking a decision and then matching this with odds, which are set by the betting company. If the gambler is correct and wins, they will get the prize. If they are wrong, they will lose their stake.

Gambling can be dangerous if it is taken too seriously, but it’s also an enjoyable form of entertainment. It can also be addictive. In fact, it’s thought that around 2.5 million people in the United States (1%) meet the criteria for a gambling disorder. The majority of people who gamble do so responsibly and can control their spending.

There are many reasons why people start gambling. For some, it’s a way to socialise with friends. They’ll bet on the outcome of a football match or place a small bet with friends, all for fun and enjoyment. Other people use it to relieve boredom, stress or depression. They may feel it’s a way to escape from their problems and be surrounded by different people, sounds and sights. They can also find excitement in the prospect of winning a jackpot, or even just think about what they would do if they won a lot of money.

Regardless of the reason, there are some key warning signs to look out for. These include:

Problem gambling can cause financial, psychological and personal distress. For this reason, it is important to recognise the signs and act if you suspect you or someone close to you has a gambling problem. Getting help is the first step to recovery and a better future.

There are a number of organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling for people with gambling problems. Some of these are:

A person is considered to be a problem gambler if they:

Have difficulty controlling their gambling behaviour. This can be because of financial, family or health issues. Feel compelled to be secretive about their gambling or lie about how much they’re spending, believing that others won’t understand or that they will surprise them with a big win.

Become preoccupied with gambling and spend more time on it than is healthy. This can lead to neglect of other responsibilities, and relationships.

People who have a gambling disorder can be a burden on their family and friends, and may even steal money or credit cards. To help them recover, it’s a good idea to take action by setting boundaries. These might include: