Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property, or assets) in the hope of winning a prize. It typically involves betting on a random event or outcome – such as predicting the winner of a football game, rolling dice, or scratchcards – and is regulated by both state and federal laws in the United States. The term can also refer to skill-based gambling activities that may improve a player’s chances of winning, such as playing card games or using knowledge of horses and jockeys to better predict the probable outcome of a horse race.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a complex disorder that is estimated to affect 0.4%-1.6% of Americans. Typically, it begins in adolescence or young adulthood and develops into a problem over time. PG is more common in males and among individuals who engage in strategic, face-to-face gambling, such as blackjack or poker, while adolescents and adults are equally likely to report problems with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, like slot machines or bingo.
The biggest step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that there is a problem. Then, it is important to seek help if the behavior is causing harm. This can include talking to a therapist or joining a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Finally, it is critical to strengthen one’s support network and find new social activities that do not involve gambling.