Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent to win something else of value. The act of gambling requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. While the majority of people who gamble do so responsibly, some individuals develop a harmful addiction to gambling. Gambling has major social, economic and health impacts that affect not only the gambler, but also their significant others and the community/society. Gambling impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and society/community levels (Fig. 1).

A common reason why people start to gamble is to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, such as boredom, loneliness or anger. However, there are many healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. These include exercising, spending time with friends and family, attending a support group or engaging in hobbies. In addition, it is important to recognise when you are feeling angry, upset or depressed and seek help from a professional.

Another cause of harmful gambling is financial crisis. It is important to recognise when you are in financial distress and seek advice from StepChange, a free debt charity. You may also wish to consider addressing your money issues through a debt management plan.

The first part of the gambling process is selecting a particular event – it could be a football match or buying a scratchcard. This choice is then matched to a set of ‘odds’ by the betting company, which determine how much you might win if successful. The odds are usually very difficult to determine, and in some cases, it is easy for someone to convince themselves that they have a good chance of winning.

Betting companies promote their wares by advertising their products on TV, through social media or via wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs. However, attracting customers is only half the battle with gambling, as the addictive nature of the product means that people will continue to lose money until they are able to stop.

Those with a gambling disorder are likely to deny that their habit is causing them problems, or they will try to minimise the problem by hiding their gambling activity or lying about it. If you are struggling to cope with a loved one’s problem gambling, it is important to seek help and reach out for support. This may involve asking for help from a therapist or support group, or it might mean taking over the management of their finances and credit. In severe cases, residential treatment or rehab programs may be needed to break the cycle of addiction.