Gambling Disorder

The world’s legal and illegal gambling activity involves placing wagers on a variety of events, from lottery games and horse races to casino-style gambling. The total volume of wagers is estimated to exceed $10 trillion (see chart below). Some forms of gambling are widespread and internationally regulated, while others are more localized or restricted. The most popular form of legal gambling is lotteries, which are available in nearly all European countries and many South American, African, and Asian countries. Organized football pools are also widely available, as are state-licensed or state-operated sportsbooks that allow for wagering on other professional and amateur sporting events.

While most people who gamble do not develop problems, a subset of individuals will go on to have pathological gambling disorder, which is now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The disorder is characterized by excessive and compulsive gambling behavior that causes distress or impairment in at least one area of life. In addition, people with this disorder are preoccupied with gambling and may spend long periods of time thinking about it.

Those with a gambling disorder are often unable to control their gambling behavior and can lose large amounts of money in short periods of time. They often borrow to finance their betting activities and may even take on speculative ventures such as currency trading or buying and selling securities. Because they are unable to earn steady incomes, they have a hard time supporting themselves and their families and may end up in financial trouble. In addition, they are prone to violence toward family members.

It is estimated that one person with a gambling problem impacts at least seven other family members, including spouses, children, extended family members, and friends. This is an extremely high percentage and suggests that problem gambling is a significant social issue. The cause of the disorder is unknown, but it is thought to be related to genetics, environment, and medical history. Various models and theories have been proposed, but none has sufficient empirical support to be considered as the definitive explanation of pathological gambling (see chapter 4).

Gambling is an activity in which a person places a bet on a random event with the hope of winning something of value. The amount of the prize is usually determined by a combination of factors, such as the odds of winning (which are typically set by the betting company) and the type of bet being placed. The odds are based on a combination of past results and probability calculations.

Although gambling is an activity that takes place worldwide, it is primarily legal in the United States and several other developed nations. In most cases, it is regulated and taxed at the state level. A few countries have laws that limit the number of casino-style gambling establishments. Regardless of the regulations, gambling is a major industry that pays billions in taxes and stimulates the economy in communities where it operates.