What is Gambling?


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value where instances of strategy are discounted. The four main reasons that people gamble are for entertainment, social, financial and coping reasons. People might bet on a football match, play a scratchcard or enter a lottery. They choose what they want to bet on – this could be a team or a particular number – and then this is matched to ‘odds’ – the chances of winning.

Problem gambling is a complex behaviour and the factors that contribute to its development are multifactorial. It is important to understand the multiple reasons why someone may gamble so that we can better support them to overcome their addiction. These include: the expectation of replicating an early big win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity and escape coping. These may be combined with other contributing factors such as depression, a poor understanding of the probabilities of random events and stressful life experiences.

It is essential that we have agreed nomenclature for the classification of gambling problems in order to ensure that researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment clinicians are able to communicate effectively with one another. This will be crucial in helping to develop evidence-based approaches for prevention and intervention. In addition, it will help us to understand the evolving health impacts of gambling, including how it can lead to mental ill-health and poverty. Health-related quality of life (HRQL) weights, which measure the per-person burden on the individual’s well-being, can also be used to identify negative and positive gambling impacts.