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Gambling Problems

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, property, or reputation) on an event whose outcome depends on chance or accident, where instances of strategy are discounted. This type of activity is distinguished from the transfer of risk from one person to another through insurance (as in a car or house policy), which requires an insurable interest, and from activities that are not considered gambling (e.g., a sports team coach betting against his or her own team to mitigate financial repercussions from a losing season).

Despite the fact that gambling is a widespread activity, it can also be harmful, especially when done in excess or with high stakes. Regardless of the type of gambling, some people develop a problem that is characterized by impaired impulse control, which may cause damage to relationships and careers, or interfere with personal well-being. The most severe form of gambling addiction is referred to as pathological gambling, and it is classified as an impulse control disorder in the DSM-III (American Psychiatric Association, 1980, 1987).

Some people are at risk for gambling problems because of cognitive or motivational biases that distort their perception of odds. The gambler’s fallacy, for example, is the incorrect belief that because an event or outcome has occurred more frequently than normal in the past it will be less likely to happen again in the future. This is false because probability does not depend on previous events/outcomes.

If you or a loved one has a gambling problem, it is important to seek help and support. There are many organisations that provide advice and counselling for people with gambling problems, as well as help with managing finances and debt. They can also offer support to family members who are affected by a loved one’s gambling behaviour.