How to Prevent Gambling Problems

Gambling involves placing something of value (typically money) at risk on a random event, with the expectation of winning a larger prize. The event can be anything, such as a football match, scratchcard or race, and the chance of winning is determined by the probability that the event will occur.

Many people gamble for a variety of reasons, including having fun, meeting friends and to relieve stress. For a small group, however, gambling becomes a serious problem and has adverse personal, family and financial consequences. Problem gambling is characterized by compulsive behavior that is out of control and is associated with distress, distressing thoughts or feelings, or avoidance of other activities and relationships.

There are a number of warning signs that can indicate the presence of a gambling problem, such as: (1) repeatedly placing bets that result in losses; (2) hiding or lying about the extent of involvement with gambling; (3) spending more and more time at casinos or other gambling establishments; (4) being unable to stop gambling even after significant losses; (5) committing illegal acts such as forgery or theft to finance gambling activities; or (6) relying on others to finance gambling activities (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

When you gamble, remember that you are taking a risk and you will lose some money. To help prevent problems, make sure that you only use money that you can afford to lose and set a gambling limit. Also, try to find a way to avoid your triggers. For example, if your usual route to work passes by a casino, take an alternate route. And don’t watch sports events or movies that make you want to gamble. Finally, it is important to challenge negative thinking patterns, such as the illusion of control, irrational beliefs and the gambler’s fallacy.