Gambling involves risking money or material possessions on an event involving chance, such as a football match or scratchcard. If the gambler predicts the outcome correctly, they win money. If they lose, they forfeit what they risked. This element of risk is what defines gambling, but there are also other factors which can contribute to gambling addiction. These include genetic predispositions, alterations in brain reward pathways and the influence of culture or other people’s values.

The majority of people who gamble do so responsibly and are not addicted, but there are those who are unable to stop, no matter what the odds say. It is believed that these individuals have a chemical imbalance in the way their brain sends and receives reward messages. There is a growing recognition that pathological gambling can be viewed as an addictive disorder, similar to substance abuse. In 2013, it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) under ‘substance-related and addictive disorders’.

Despite the negative impact of addiction and financial difficulties, gambling has many positive social and economic impacts. It is a source of revenue for governments, which helps to support public services and infrastructure. Additionally, many gambling companies participate in community initiatives by donating a portion of their profits to charitable causes and other worthwhile projects.

While the social benefits of gambling are evident, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and how to recognise a problem. Some groups are more vulnerable to developing a gambling addiction than others, with men and young people being particularly susceptible. This may be due to cultural influences or the fact that they have more to lose than other groups, which leads them to place more value on a potential big win.

For some people, gambling can be a form of escape and distraction from their personal problems. It can be portrayed as a fun, exciting and glamorous activity by the media, which can make it tempting to get involved. It can also act as a coping mechanism for those experiencing depression, grief or boredom.

It is important to remember that the chances of winning do not increase or decrease based on previous results. The same applies to flipping a coin: if it comes up tails 7 times in a row, that does not make the next flip more likely to be heads. This is known as ‘gambling fallacy’, and it is a common mistake that can lead to addiction. By avoiding these errors, you can reduce your vulnerability to gambling-related issues. Our Safeguarding Courses can help you to learn more about this subject and how to protect children and adults from harm. Click here to discover our range of courses.