Gambling is the wagering of something of value, often money, on an uncertain event where instances of skill are discounted. It is a common activity that takes place in casinos and other gambling venues, but is also done on the Internet. People gamble to win something of value, such as a car or a vacation. Gambling is a form of entertainment, but it can also become an addiction. Those who suffer from this condition are called compulsive gamblers. The disorder can affect men and women at any age, and can begin in adolescence or late adulthood. It can also run in families.
Those who have a problem with gambling may benefit from several different types of therapy. One approach is cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches individuals to resist unwanted thoughts and behaviors. Another is psychodynamic therapy, which examines unconscious processes that influence behavior. Another form of treatment is group or family therapy, which can help a person with gambling disorder reconnect with friends and loved ones in a healthy way.
People with gambling disorders can also benefit from learning how to manage their finances and set financial boundaries. For example, they should not use money that they need to pay bills or live on to gamble. In addition, they should limit their access to the Internet and other sources of gambling content. These measures can help them control their gambling and avoid relapse.
Problem gambling impacts occur at three levels: personal, interpersonal and society/community (Fig. 1). Personal impact is felt by gamblers themselves, and includes invisible costs of the disorder and visible effects on other people. Interpersonal impact involves family members, who are impacted by the gambler’s debt and financial strain. External impact is a result of gambling activities on a community/societal level and involves costs and benefits that are not associated with the individual gambler.
In the case of legalized gambling, government officials and casino owners frequently support the industry because it is in their immediate self-interest. This is a classic example of Miles’ Law, which states that “where you stand depends upon where you sit.” Elected city leaders often see gambling as an opportunity to solidify a moribund economy by bringing suburbanites to a downtown area. Bureaucrats in agencies that are promised gaming revenue tend to support gambling because it can pay for their activities, while those who own large casinos may oppose it because they will not gain any economic advantage from it. This polarization of interest can lead to incoherent public policies. Gambling contributes to the GDP of countries around the world, and it provides employment to a large number of people. In addition, it provides many recreational opportunities. This is especially true of games such as blackjack, which require strategic thinking and the ability to read other players’ body language. Additionally, many people enjoy socializing while gambling because it is an opportunity to interact with other like-minded individuals in a relaxed environment. For example, some people may organize group gambling trips to a casino that is a few hours’ drive away from their homes.