Problem Gambling


Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event with an element of randomness or chance, where instances of skill are discounted. This can include card games, dice games, video and other electronic games, and betting on events like horse races and football accumulators within social circles. It can also involve speculation, business and investment decisions, or the purchase of lottery tickets.

Problem gambling often starts in youth, and it can continue throughout adulthood. People in the 18-29 age range are more likely to develop problem gambling habits because their brains are still developing, and they are more susceptible to bad habit formation. But, regardless of the form of gambling, there are several common features that can help explain how and why someone becomes addicted to it.

One reason is the way gambling hijacks our brain’s learning mechanism by generating dopamine rewards when we win. In some cases, these rewards can become so strong that they outweigh the risk. This is why many addicts continue to gamble even when they are losing money and start to lose control of their behavior.

Another factor is that people who are predisposed to gambling problems may have underlying mood disorders, such as depression or stress. These conditions can make compulsive gambling more appealing and exacerbate the harms of the addiction.

A final issue is that it is difficult to conduct balanced studies of the economic impact of gambling, especially in terms of costs. Typically, gross impact studies focus on a single aspect of gambling’s effects and do not attempt to address issues such as real versus transfer costs, expenditure substitution, tangible vs. intangible impacts, and present versus future values (Gramlich, 1990).