Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined by chance in the hope of winning a prize. It can be done legally or illegally. It can be played in casinos, lotteries, online or in private settings. It can involve betting on sports events, buying lottery tickets or using pokies (machines). While gambling has long been a popular activity and can be very entertaining, it can also cause harm to those who participate. Gambling can negatively impact a person’s health, relationships and work or study performance and can even lead to financial hardship or homelessness. It can also have a negative effect on family, friends and community.
Some people are more susceptible to the addictive nature of gambling than others. In order to determine whether someone may have a problem, a number of criteria have been developed by mental health professionals. These are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
A person may be considered to have a gambling problem if they:
Needs to gamble in order to feel satisfied or excited. Spends increasing amounts of money on gambling and is restless or irritable when trying to control, cut back, or stop gambling. Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut down or quit gambling. Has lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity, or has jeopardised their financial stability because of gambling. Has committed illegal acts, including forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement in order to finance gambling. Has lied to family members, a therapist or other professionals in order to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling.
The risk of developing a gambling problem increases with age and is more common in men than in women. People who are socially isolated or have poor quality relationships may be at greater risk of gambling problems, as may those who are depressed or have an underlying illness such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, alcoholism or bipolar disorder. People who have a family history of addiction or mental health problems are also more likely to develop a gambling problem.
There are many ways that you can reduce the chances of gambling becoming a problem for you. Talking about your gambling habit with a trusted friend or counsellor can help. Limiting your spending and only gambling with money that you can afford to lose can also be helpful. Try to set time and money limits for yourself in advance and stick to them. Avoid using credit cards to fund your gambling and find other ways to relieve boredom or unwind, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends and hobbies. It is also important to find healthy ways of relieving unpleasant feelings, such as stress or anger. See the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Addictions: Anxiety and depression’ for tips on how to do this. If you do need help, contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 233.