Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling is an activity in which a person places something of value at risk on an event or outcome that relies heavily upon chance. This includes activities such as gambling on horse races, lottery games, dice games and slot machines. While the overwhelming majority of people who gamble do so responsibly, a subset develops a problem that affects their health, family, relationships and work performance. Problem gambling is characterized by an inability to control impulses and to stop gambling, and often involves lying to family and friends about the extent of their involvement.

While most people who gamble do so in casinos, gambling can also take place outside of these settings. People may play card games, such as poker or blackjack with friends in a private setting and wager money or chips. Some individuals will place bets on the outcome of sports events or horse races with their coworkers or social groups. These bets are referred to as informal and are typically small in size and meant for friendly competition.

Many types of activities can be viewed as gambling, but the core element is that there is an inherent risk that an individual will lose something of value (either money or other material items). Gambling requires skill in order to improve the odds of winning, and this skill is sometimes referred to as “instinctive probability.” For example, knowledge of playing strategies or horses and jockeys can enhance predictions of probable outcomes in card games and horse races. In addition, some forms of insurance are considered a form of gambling because they involve the transfer of risk.

An estimated 2.5 million adults in the United States (1%) meet the diagnostic criteria for a severe gambling disorder. Another 5-8 million adults (2-3%) have mild or moderate gambling problems. While there are a number of different reasons why people develop a gambling disorder, research has consistently found that pathological gambling is associated with poor impulse control and low self-esteem.

Some religious organizations consider gambling a sin and have strict prohibitions on the practice. These include Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Members Church of God International. In addition, Lord Buddha stated that gambling is a source of destruction in the Singalovada Sutra.

Problem gambling is a complex issue with a variety of causes and effects, and there is ongoing debate about whether it should be considered an addiction. Some argue that pathological gambling should be included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as an addictive disorder, while others believe that this is a false comparison, because the causes of gambling disorders are very different from those of substance abuse. In any case, the development of a better understanding of the nature of gambling disorders is an important area of future research. This may lead to improved methods of prevention and treatment, as well as elucidating the factors that make certain people more susceptible to developing gambling disorders.