What is Gambling?


Gambling is the betting of something of value on an event or a game with awareness of risk and in the hope of winning. It can be a form of entertainment for some people, and a means of earning a living for others. It can be as casual as buying lottery tickets, or as sophisticated as a casino. It can also be illegal. In addition to its entertainment value, gambling contributes a substantial percentage of the GDP of many countries worldwide.

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of people who gamble on a regular basis. This is partly due to technological changes and greater accessibility of gambling activities. The growth of online gambling is a particular concern. This type of gambling is becoming increasingly popular among younger people. In the UK, for example, in 2017 57% of adults reported gambling in the past year and in 2018 it was estimated that 20% of young people regularly gambled online (NHS Digital, 2019).

Traditional theories attribute pathological gambling behavior to personal psychological factors. Psychologists and psychiatrists believe that the majority of pathological gamblers began gambling during adolescence and/or after experiencing a significant life stress, such as the death of a loved one. These stressors, which can be triggered by any number of things, may lead to an emotional instability that can make a person more susceptible to the addictive nature of gambling.

There are several other theories about why some people become addicted to gambling. These include the concepts of sensation-seeking and novelty-seeking, as described by Zuckerman (1979) and Cloninger (1987). These theories suggest that people who engage in risky gambling behaviors do so to get a “rush” or feeling of arousal, which is often accompanied by states of uncertainty and the anticipation of future rewards. These feelings are associated with reward centers of the brain and are similar to those experienced during drug use.

A more recent theory attributes addiction to gambling to a lack of impulse control. This is based on the work of psychologists like Beck and Brewer, who have shown that individuals with impulsive traits tend to be more vulnerable to gambling addictions. It is believed that this lack of impulse control makes it difficult for people to regulate their gambling behaviors and prevent them from spiraling out of control.

In addition to the underlying mental health issues, there are also a number of practical considerations when it comes to gambling. For example, it is important to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. This is particularly important when playing casino games, where it can be easy to lose track of time and spend more than you intended. It is also recommended that you never chase your losses, as this can cause you to lose even more money.

A large contemporary cohort study, the ALSPAC Gambling Study, has been used to investigate gambling behavior and explore antecedents in a large sample of young people. Participants completed computer-administered gambling surveys at the ages of 17 years, 20 years, and 24 years. Univariable analyses of child, parental, and SES antecedents to gambling were conducted using chi-square tests or ANOVAs. Those variables significantly associated with gambling at one or more of these time points were taken forward to multivariable models. Due to missing data on some of the antecedents, multiple imputation was undertaken using the mi impute command in STATA v. 15. A summary table of the final models is presented in supplementary Table 5.