The act of gambling involves placing something of value on a random event in the hope of winning something else of value. This can be done through various means including lotteries, sports events and scratchcards. Gambling can be very addictive and cause many health problems. It can also affect family and friends. Gambling is a problem in both Australia and around the world. People with a gambling addiction may be in denial or find it difficult to stop. Treatment options include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and peer support programs such as Gamblers Anonymous.

A person may gamble for money, entertainment, or even to try to overcome mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. A gambling addiction can result in loss of control, financial stress, and social isolation. In extreme cases, it can lead to criminal behaviour and homelessness. It is important to understand how gambling works so that you can make better decisions about your gambling.

Gambling is a risky activity and the probability of winning or losing depends on chance, not skill. The odds of a particular event occurring are often set by betting companies and determine how much money you can win if you place a bet on that event. The chances of a win are based on how many people choose to wager on the event, whether they have the money to bet and what type of stake they are willing to place.

When people are experiencing harm as a result of their gambling, they need to seek help. Counselling is one of the best ways to deal with a gambling problem, and can be provided by telephone or face-to-face. CBT can help people with a gambling disorder to identify and challenge irrational beliefs such as believing that certain rituals can bring them luck or that a string of losses is an indicator of an imminent win. Counselling can also help people to restructure their lives and develop new ways of coping with their urges.

The early research data on gambling related harm highlighted the breadth of experience of harms and the importance of considering both individual and societal impacts of gambling. Initially, six different thematic classifications of harm were identified: financial harms; harms to relationships; emotional or psychological harms; impact on work or study; and harms in the broader community. Legacy harms were also identified as being important, and these are the types of harms that persist beyond the cessation of a person’s engagement with gambling.

There is a significant gap in understanding how harmful gambling is for individuals, families and communities. This is partly due to the use of inadequate proxy measures of harm, such as symptomatology, in policy and research. This needs to be addressed, in addition to the need to understand the biological causes of gambling addiction. A definition of problem gambling is also needed, as well as an agreed framework for evaluating and monitoring harms associated with gambling. This will improve the effectiveness of efforts to prevent and treat gambling-related harms.