Gambling is any activity in which you stake money or something else of value on an outcome that involves chance. It can be done on your own, with friends or at public events such as casino games, bingo or football matches. In most cases, the aim is to win a prize, but you can also lose money.
If you gamble, you must remember that the odds of winning are very low. The more you bet, the higher your losses are likely to be. You should only gamble with the money you can afford to lose. If you gamble for more than you can afford to lose, it is important to stop gambling immediately.
The risk of becoming addicted to gambling is very real, and can have serious consequences for you and your family. It can cause financial problems, mental health issues and other difficulties in daily life. If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s gambling habits, you can get help and advice from StepChange.
Occasional gambling can be fun, but if you or someone you care about is gambling regularly to make money or distract themselves from difficult thoughts or situations, it could become harmful. It is important to recognise the warning signs and talk about it with someone you trust, or call a GamCare helpline for non-judgemental support.
People with mental health issues may be more at risk of gambling problems. They may have poor money management skills or find it hard to say no when they are tempted to gamble. They may be more likely to spend more than they can afford, and they might hide their gambling activity from others. They might also find it hard to stop gambling once they have started, even if they are losing lots of money.
Some studies suggest that 20% of bankruptcy cases are related to gambling. However, the evidence for this is anecdotal and is not well documented. Those who study gambling and bankruptcy usually rely on published news accounts and opinions of bankruptcy judges and lawyers.
If you are worried about the amount of time you or someone you know is spending on gambling, try to reduce it by scheduling activities that you enjoy more and by making sure it does not take over your daily life. Do not gamble on credit, and never chase your losses – this is known as ‘chasing the dragon’ and will only result in bigger and bigger losses.
It is possible to recover from a gambling addiction, but you need to be prepared to change your habits and seek help. You can get support from your family and friends, or you can join a peer group like Gamblers Anonymous. This is a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous, and you can find a sponsor who has a history of remaining free from gambling, so they can offer you valuable guidance and support. They can also recommend therapists, support groups and self-help materials.