Gambling is defined as risking something of value on an activity or event in which the outcome is uncertain in hopes of winning something of material value. It is the playing of a game of chance for stakes. Common forms of gambling include horse and dog racetrack betting, off-track betting, lotteries, casino games, bingo, bookmaking (betting on sports or special events), Internet gambling, and stock market trading. For something to be considered gambling, three essential items must be involved: risk (something of value), uncertainty, and the goal of winning.

Chance-based gambling is totally random. One cannot influence whether he or she wins or loses; all players have an equal chance of winning. Examples include the lottery, roulette, bingo, and gaming machines.

Skill-based gambling involves the ability to influence whether a person will win or lose. Though chance is involved, the odds of winning are not the same among all players because technique, knowledge, or strategy can give some an advantage over others. Examples include betting on races and playing poker or blackjack.

For most people, gambling is a recreational activity. However, for an estimated three to five percent of the population, gambling becomes an easily “hidden” problem. The inability to stop gambling or to control compulsive behaviors can be devastating for problematic and compulsive gamblers and their families.

People who gamble responsibly make sure they know all the facts. They decide in advance how often they will play, how much money and time they will spend, and when to stop. Sometimes, responsible gambling is making a decision not to gamble at all. Gambling responsibly will keep it enjoyable and will lower the risk of harm to you, your family, and friends.

A person who gambles responsibly:

  • Gambles for fun, not to make money or to escape problems
  • Knows that they are very unlikely to win in the long run
  • Does not try to "chase" or win back losses
  • Gambles with money set aside for entertainment and never uses money intended for rent, bills, and food
  • Does not borrow money to gamble
  • Does not let gambling affect their relationships with family and friends

Problem gambling is often defined by whether the gambler or others experience harm. It is an urge to gamble despite negative consequences or a desire to stop. Like drug and alcohol disorders, gambling disorders affect people of every race, economic background, and gender. A problem gambler will wager on whatever game is available, sometimes even creating bets on ordinary, everyday activities. 

A simple two-question self-test can help indicate whether someone has a gambling problem. 

  1. Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money?
  2. Have you ever had to lie to people important to you about how much you gambled? 

If the answer is “yes” to either question, there may be a problem. 

If you or someone in your life may be a problem gambler, Chestnut Health Systems™ can help. We offer assessment in a safe environment for gambling disorder, counseling, help in developing a support system, and support in addressing legal and financial issues.

For more information, please call us at 618.877.4420.