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What Is Gambling?

Gambling involves placing something of value (e.g., money, property, services) on a random event for the purpose of winning something else of value. It excludes bona fide business transactions such as the purchase or sale of commodities or securities, contracts of insurance or guaranty and life, health, and disability insurance. In addition, it excludes gambling activities that involve skill, such as in card games, horse races, and other athletic events.

Several psychological factors are commonly associated with gambling, including sensation- and novelty-seeking, impulsivity, negative mood states, and motivation to win. Some researchers believe that underlying mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can trigger or worsen problematic gambling behaviors. There is also evidence that gambling increases the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of excitement and reward.

People who have problems with gambling can lose money, ruin their personal relationships, fail at work or school, become homeless, and get into legal trouble. The problem can also have a negative impact on family members. If you think a loved one has a problem with gambling, it’s important to seek help. Consider therapy and self-help groups for families such as Gam-Anon. Also, talk to your family doctor about any underlying mental health issues. These can include depression, stress, and substance abuse, which may be triggering or made worse by problem gambling. They might recommend medications to treat these disorders. It is also important to set boundaries in managing money, e.g., keeping credit cards in a safe place or putting someone else in charge of them, and to close online betting accounts.