The Dangers of Gambling


Gambling is the act of betting on a random event, with the intention of winning something else of value. This usually involves putting money on the line, or some other valuable item that can be lost or gained. It is often found in casinos and other gaming venues, but it can also be played from home on a computer or mobile phone.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others. The most common is to win money, which may help them meet financial needs or improve their living standards. Other motives include changing moods, social rewards and the thrill of a potential jackpot win. However, people don’t understand that gambling is a high risk activity, and they are likely to lose more than they win.

For some, it’s more than just about winning; it’s about feeling in control. They will use any method they can to get that feeling, including dressing in a particular way, sitting in a specific spot or wearing a lucky charm. This behaviour is a form of denial that can contribute to a gambling addiction, especially when it’s combined with other factors like low self-esteem and the desire to avoid feelings of shame or guilt.

Problematic gambling can change the way our brains send chemical messages, which can lead to dramatic alterations in our thinking and behaviour. There are also genetic or biological factors that can make some people more susceptible to becoming addicted to gambling than others.

The good news is that there are ways to reduce the risk of gambling addiction and keep it under control. One of the best things to do is to start with a set amount that you can afford to lose, and don’t play with more than that. Ensure that your bank account has enough funds to cover this, and don’t use credit cards or other forms of debt to fund your gambling.

Another step is to recognise what triggers your gambling, and find other ways to fulfil your emotional needs and escape from the stresses of life. For example, some people find that a night out with friends or an afternoon in the park helps them relax and unwind. Alternatively, some people find solace in spiritual or religious practices. For others, a trip to the shops or a day out at the movies is enough to take their mind off their worries.

In the past, pathological gambling was considered a compulsion; now, it’s recognised as an addiction akin to alcoholism. Understanding the changes in the brain that happen with excessive gambling can help us to better support those with this disorder and prevent it from developing. You can learn more about these changes and how they affect the brain in our Safeguarding Training Courses.