Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value on an event that has a chance of happening, and where the outcome is uncertain. The activity can take many forms, including betting on sports, games of chance like roulette or poker, and events such as horse races or lottery draws. It may be done for fun or as a way to make money. However, gambling can also be a serious problem and cause harm to people’s health and well-being. It can lead to depression, poor performance at work or school, relationship difficulties and even bankruptcy.
It is possible to gamble safely if you set limits and follow them. The Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ has tips and advice to help you do this. It is important to never gamble with money you need for things like rent, bills or food, and to allocate a specific amount of disposable income to gambling each week. You should stick to this limit, even if you win, and never ‘chase’ your losses, which is when you try to recoup your losses by gambling more money.
Whether you are at the casino, in a bookmakers or on the internet, gambling is a game of chance. You choose what you want to bet on, such as a football team to win or a scratchcard, and then you match that with the ‘odds’, which are calculated by the gambling company and determine how much you could win if you are successful.
In a casino, for example, you are not allowed to look at your watch or phone, which makes it easy to lose track of time and spend more than you intended to. You can reduce the chances of this happening by allocating a fixed amount of disposable income to gambling each week and setting an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you when it is time to stop. It is also important not to gamble when you are feeling low, stressed or upset, and to find healthier ways of relieving unpleasant feelings.
People with mood disorders are more at risk of harmful gambling, which can lead to debt, relationship problems and depression. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to a counsellor or get free debt advice from StepChange. If you struggle with addiction, consider joining a peer support group for gamblers such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on Alcoholics Anonymous and has a similar structure. The group can help you find a sponsor who has experience of staying clean and so can provide guidance and support. You can also seek help from a mental health professional or a drug and alcohol specialist. They can refer you to other services if necessary. This can include a local gambling addiction service, an organisation that provides counselling for gambling addiction or a charity that supports vulnerable people. This might be free or funded by the government, depending on your circumstances.