What is Gambling?
A person is gambling whenever he/she takes the chance of losing money or belongings, and when winning or losing is decided mostly by chance. Gambling is an increasingly popular recreational activity for people over the age of 18. While gambling was once illegal, or viewed as a disreputable activity, social norms have shifted. Gambling is now a multi-billion dollar industry in the USA and UK, and its growth is likely to continue. Surveys indicate that the general population favours funding charities, health care and other important initiatives through the funds raised from gambling.
While some may consider gambling only to be associated with casinos and racetracks, there are countless activities that are considered gambling.
There are many different ways to gamble, including:
- Casino games (Craps, dice, Sic Bo (Chinese dice game), Pai Gow Tiles (Chinese Dominoes), Slot machines, Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Three Card Poker, Casino War, Baccarat, Spanish 21, Pai Gow Poker and others)
- Slot machines
- Lottery tickets
- Scratch, Nevada or pull-tab tickets
- Betting on card games, mah-jong or dominoes
- Betting on horse racing
- Other sports betting (Soccer etc)
- Betting on games of skill, such as golf or pool
- Tombola and similar games
- Online/Internet gambling
- Stock market speculation.
There are different reasons why people choose to gamble. Individuals may be gambling to win money, to socialize, for excitement or to pass time.
For some people, gambling may become a serious problem that affects all aspects of their lives. And as gambling becomes more accessible, the number of people affected by problem gambling also increases.
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What are Odds?
“Odds” is the term used to describe the chances a person placing a bet has of winning. In gambling:
Odds are the chances of winning
Odds are always against the person placing the bet
“House” always has the edge
In every betting game, the odds are against the player. That means that the “house” (the casino, bingo hall, racetrack, lottery commission etc.), is absolutely guaranteed, mathematically, to “win” over time. For every millionaire that is created from lottery winnings, there are millions of others who have lost their money!
The longer you gamble; the more likely it is you will lose.
Many people who develop problems associated with their gambling have the false belief that they will be able to 'beat the system', while others may not understand that the odds are just against them and that over time, they will lose money.
In America alone, problem gambling affects more than 15 million people. More than 3 million of these are considered severe problem gamblers, otherwise known as gambling addicts or pathological gamblers.
Problem gambling can strain your relationships, interfere with responsibilities at home and work, and lead to financial catastrophe. It may even lead you to do things you never thought possible, like stealing money to gamble or taking money meant for your children. You may think you can’t stop, but problem gambling and gambling addiction are treatable. If you’re ready to admit you have a problem and seek help, you can overcome your gambling problem and regain control of your life.
Understanding gambling addiction and problem gambling
Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”
Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.
Myths & Facts about Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling
MYTH: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.
FACT: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.
MYTH: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
FACT: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can lead to relationship breakdown and loss of important friendships.
MYTH: Partners of problem gamblers often drive problem gamblers to gamble.
FACT: Problem gamblers often rationalize their behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the problem.
MYTH: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, you should help them take care of it.
FACT: Quick fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling problems to continue.
Relieving unpleasant and overwhelming feelings without gambling
Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. After a stressful day at work or after an argument with your spouse or coworker, an evening at the track or the casino can seem like a fun, exciting way to unwind. But there are healthier and far less expensive ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.
For many people, an important aspect of quitting gambling is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings without gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, the painful and unpleasant feelings that may have prompted you to gamble in the past will still remain. So, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with it.