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Gambling Introduction Essay

"Gamble" and "Betting" redirect here. For other uses, see Gamble (disambiguation) and Betting (disambiguation).

Gambling is the wagering of money or something of value (referred to as "the stakes") on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning money or material goods. Gambling thus requires three elements be present: consideration, chance and prize.[1] The outcome of the wager is often immediate, such as a single roll of dice, a spin of a roulette wheel, or a horse crossing the finish line, but longer time frames are also common, allowing wagers on the outcome of a future sports contest or even an entire sports season.

The term "gaming"[2] in this context typically refers to instances in which the activity has been specifically permitted by law. The two words are not mutually exclusive; i.e., a "gaming" company offers (legal) "gambling" activities to the public[3] and may be regulated by one of many gaming control boards, for example, the Nevada Gaming Control Board. However, this distinction is not universally observed in the English-speaking world. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the regulator of gambling activities is called the Gambling Commission (not the Gaming Commission).[4] The word gaming is used more frequently since the rise of computer and video games to describe activities that do not necessarily involve wagering, especially online gaming, with the new usage still not having displaced the old usage as the primary definition in common dictionaries.

Gambling is also a major international commercial activity, with the legal gambling market totaling an estimated $335 billion in 2009.[5] In other forms, gambling can be conducted with materials which have a value, but are not real money. For example, players of marbles games might wager marbles, and likewise games of Pogs or Magic: The Gathering can be played with the collectible game pieces (respectively, small discs and trading cards) as stakes, resulting in a meta-game regarding the value of a player's collection of pieces.


Gambling dates back to the Paleolithic period, before written history. The earliest six-sided dice date to about 3000 BC in Mesopotamia. However, they were based on astragali dating back thousands of years earlier. In China, gambling houses were widespread in the first millennium BC where betting on fighting animals was common. Lotto games and dominoes (precursors of Pai Gow) appeared in China as early as the 10th century.[6]

Playing cards appeared in the ninth century in China. Poker, the most popular U.S. card game associated with gambling, was based on the Persian game As-Nas, dating back to the 17th century.[7]

The first known casino was the Ridotto, established in Venice, Italy in 1638.[8]


Main article: Gambling law

Many jurisdictions, local as well as national, either ban gambling or heavily control it by licensing the vendors. Such regulation generally leads to gambling tourism and illegal gambling in the areas where it is not allowed. The involvement of governments, through regulation and taxation, has led to a close connection between many governments and gaming organizations, where legal gambling provides significant government revenue, such as in Monaco or Macau, China.

There is generally legislation requiring that the odds in gaming devices are statistically random, to prevent manufacturers from making some high-payoff results impossible. Since these high-payoffs have very low probability, a house bias can quite easily be missed unless the odds are checked carefully.[9]

Most jurisdictions that allow gambling require participants to be above a certain age. In some jurisdictions, the gambling age differs depending on the type of gambling. For example, in many American states one must be over 21 to enter a casino, but may buy a lottery ticket after turning 18.


Because contracts of insurance have many features in common with wagers, insurance contracts are often distinguished under law as agreements in which either party has an interest in the "bet-upon" outcome beyond the specific financial terms. e.g.: a "bet" with an insurer on whether one's house will burn down is not gambling, but rather insurance — as the homeowner has an obvious interest in the continued existence of his/her home independent of the purely financial aspects of the "bet" (i.e., the insurance policy). Nonetheless, both insurance and gambling contracts are typically considered aleatory contracts under most legal systems, though they are subject to different types of regulation.

Asset recovery[edit]

Under common law, particularly English Law (English unjust enrichment), a gambling contract may not give a casino bona fide purchaser status, permitting the recovery of stolen funds in some situations. In Lipkin Gorman v Karpnale Ltd, where a solicitor used stolen funds to gamble at a casino, the House of Lords overruled the High Court's previous verdict, adjudicating that the casino return the stolen funds less those subject to any change of position defence. U.S. Law precedents are somewhat similar.[10] For case law on recovery of gambling losses where the loser had stolen the funds see "Rights of owner of stolen money as against one who won it in gambling transaction from thief".[11]

An interesting wrinkle to these fact pattern is to ask what happens when the person trying to make recovery is the gambler's spouse, and the money or property lost was either the spouse's, or was community property. This was a minor plot point in a Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Singing Skirt, and it cites an actual case Novo v. Hotel Del Rio.[12]


Religious perspectives on gambling have been mixed. Ancient Hindu poems like the Gambler's Lament and the Mahabharata testify to the popularity of gambling among ancient Indians. However, the text Arthashastra (c. 4th century BCE) recommends taxation and control of gambling.[13] Ancient Jewish authorities frowned on gambling, even disqualifying professional gamblers from testifying in court.[14]

The Catholic Church holds the position that there is no moral impediment to gambling, so long as it is fair, all bettors have a reasonable chance of winning, that there is no fraud involved, and the parties involved do not have actual knowledge of the outcome of the bet (unless they have disclosed this knowledge).[15] Gambling has often been seen as having social consequences, as satirized by Balzac. For these social and religious reasons, most legal jurisdictions limit gambling, as advocated by Pascal.[16] as long as the following conditions are met; the gambler can afford losing the bet, stops when the limit is reached, and the motivation is entertainment and not personal gain leading to the "love of money"[17] or making a living.[18] In general, Catholic bishops have opposed casino gambling on the grounds it too often tempts people into problem gambling or addiction, has particularly negative effects on poor people; they sometimes also cite secondary effects such as increases in loan sharking, prostitution, corruption, and general public immorality.[19][20][21] In at least one case, the same bishop opposing a casino has sold land to be used for its construction.[22] Some parish pastors have also opposed casinos for the additional reason that they would take customers away from church bingo and annual festivals where games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, and poker are used for fundraising.[23]

Gambling views among Protestants vary with some either discouraging or forbidding their members from participation in gambling. For example, the United Methodist Church opposes gambling which they believe gambling is a sin that feeds on greed.[24] Quakers also disapprove gambling.[25]

Other Protestants that oppose gambling include many Mennonites, Christian Reformed Church in North America,[26] the Free Methodist Church,[27] the Salvation Army,[28] the Church of the Nazarene,[29] the Southern Baptist Convention,[30] the Assemblies of God,[31] and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Other churches that oppose gambling include the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,[32] the Iglesia Ni Cristo,[33] and the Members Church of God International.

Although different interpretations of Shari‘ah (Islamic Law) exist in the Muslim world, there is a consensus among the ‘Ulema’ (Arabic: عُـلـمـاء‎, Scholars (of Islam)) that gambling is haraam (Arabic: حَـرام‎, sinful or forbidden). In assertions made during its prohibition, Muslim jurists describe gambling as being both un-Qur’anic, and as being generally harmful to the Muslim Ummah (Arabic: أُمَّـة‎, Community). The Islamic terminology for gambling is Maisir, however this also has a second definition meaning easy money.[34] In parts of the world that implement full Shari‘ah, such as Aceh, punishments for Muslim gamblers can range up to 12 lashes or a one-year prison term and a fine for those who provide a venue for such practises.[35] Some Islamic nations prohibit gambling; most other countries regulate it.[36]


Casino games[edit]

While almost any game can be played for money, and any game typically played for money can also be played just for fun, some games are generally offered in a casino setting.

Table games[edit]

Main article: Table game

Electronic gaming[edit]

Other gambling[edit]

Non-casino games[edit]

Gambling games that take place outside of casinos include Bingo (as played in the US and UK), dead pool, lotteries, pull-tab games and scratchcards, and Mahjong.

Other non-casino gambling games include:

  • Card games, such as Liar's poker, Bridge, Basset, Lansquenet, Piquet, Put, Teen patti
  • Carnival Games such as The Razzle or Hanky Pank
  • Coin-tossing games such as Head and Tail, Two-up*
  • Confidence tricks such as Three-card Monte or the Shell game
  • Dice-based games, such as Backgammon, Liar's dice, Passe-dix, Hazard, Threes, Pig, or Mexico (or Perudo);

*Although coin tossing isn't usually played in a casino, it has been known to be an official gambling game in some Australian casinos[37]

Fixed-odds betting[edit]

Main article: Fixed-odds betting

Fixed-odds betting and Parimutuel betting frequently occur at many types of sporting events, and political elections. In addition many bookmakers offer fixed odds on a number of non-sports related outcomes, for example the direction and extent of movement of various financial indices, the winner of television competitions such as Big Brother, and election results.[38] Interactive prediction markets also offer trading on these outcomes, with "shares" of results trading on an open market.

Parimutuel betting[edit]

Main article: Parimutuel betting

One of the most widespread forms of gambling involves betting on horse or greyhound racing. Wagering may take place through parimutuel pools, or bookmakers may take bets personally. Parimutuel wagers pay off at prices determined by support in the wagering pools, while bookmakers pay off either at the odds offered at the time of accepting the bet; or at the median odds offered by track bookmakers at the time the race started.

Sports betting[edit]

Main article: Sports betting

Betting on team sports has become an important service industry in many countries. For example, millions of people play the football pools every week in the United Kingdom. In addition to organized sports betting, both legal and illegal, there are many side-betting games played by casual groups of spectators, such as NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket Pools, Super Bowl Squares, Fantasy Sports Leagues with monetary entry fees and winnings, and in-person spectator games like Moundball.

Arbitrage betting[edit]

Main article: Arbitrage betting

Arbitrage betting is a theoretically risk-free betting system in which every outcome of an event is bet upon so that a known profit will be made by the bettor upon completion of the event, regardless of the outcome. Arbitrage betting is a combination of the ancient art of arbitrage trading and gambling, which has been made possible by the large numbers of bookmakers in the marketplace, creating occasional opportunities for arbitrage.

Other types of betting[edit]

One can also bet with another person that a statement is true or false, or that a specified event will happen (a "back bet") or will not happen (a "lay bet") within a specified time. This occurs in particular when two people have opposing but strongly held views on truth or events. Not only do the parties hope to gain from the bet, they place the bet also to demonstrate their certainty about the issue. Some means of determining the issue at stake must exist. Sometimes the amount bet remains nominal, demonstrating the outcome as one of principle rather than of financial importance.

Betting exchanges allow consumers to both back and lay at odds of their choice. Similar in some ways to a stock exchange, a bettor may want to back a horse (hoping it will win) or lay a horse (hoping it will lose, effectively acting as bookmaker).

Spread betting allows gamblers to wagering on the outcome of an event where the pay-off is based on the accuracy of the wager, rather than a simple "win or lose" outcome. For example, a wager can be based on the when a point is scored in the game in minutes and each minute away from the prediction increases or reduces the payout.

Staking systems[edit]

Main article: Betting strategy

Many betting systems have been created in an attempt to "beat the house" but no system can make a mathematically unprofitable bet in terms of expected value profitable over time. Widely used systems include:

  • Card counting – Many systems exist for Blackjack to keep track of the ratio of ten values to all others; when this ratio is high the player has an advantage and should increase the amount of their bets. Keeping track of cards dealt confers an advantage in other games as well.
  • Due-column betting – A variation on fixed profits betting in which the bettor sets a target profit and then calculates a bet size that will make this profit, adding any losses to the target.
  • Fixed profits – the stakes vary based on the odds to ensure the same profit from each winning selection.
  • Fixed stakes – a traditional system of staking the same amount on each selection.
  • Kelly – the optimum level to bet to maximize your future median bank level.
  • Martingale – A system based on staking enough each time to recover losses from previous bet(s) until one wins.

Other uses of the term[edit]

Many risk-return choices are sometimes referred to colloquially as "gambling."[39] Whether this terminology is acceptable is a matter of debate:

  • Emotional or physical risk-taking, where the risk-return ratio is not quantifiable (e.g., skydiving, campaigning for political office, asking someone for a date, etc.)
  • Insurance is a method of shifting risk from one party to another. Insurers use actuarial methods to calculate appropriate premiums, which is similar to calculating gambling odds. Insurers set their premiums to obtain a long term positive expected return in the same manner that professional gamblers select which bets to make. While insurance is sometimes distinguished from gambling by the requirement of an insurable interest, the equivalent in gambling is simply betting against one's own best interests (e.g., a sports coach betting against his own team to mitigate the financial repercussions of a losing season).
  • Situations where the possible return is of secondary importance to the wager/purchase (e.g. entering a raffle in support of a charitable cause)

Investments are also usually not considered gambling, although some investments can involve significant risk. Examples of investments include stocks, bonds and real estate. Starting a business can also be considered a form of investment. Investments are generally not considered gambling when they meet the following criteria:

  • Economic utility
  • Positive expected returns (at least in the long term)
  • Underlying value independent of the risk being undertaken

Some speculative investment activities are particularly risky, but are sometimes perceived to be different from gambling:

  • Foreign currency exchange (forex) transactions
  • Prediction markets
  • Securities derivatives, such as options or futures, where the value of the derivative is dependent on the value of the underlying asset at a specific point in time (typically the derivative's associated expiration date)

Negative consequences[edit]

Main article: Problem gambling

Studies show that though many people participate in gambling as a form of recreation or even as a means to gain an income, gambling, like any behavior that involves variation in brain chemistry, can become a harmful, behavioral addiction. Behavioral addiction can occur with all the negative consequences in a person's life minus the physical issues faced by people who compulsively engage in drug and alcohol abuse.[40]Reinforcement schedules may also make gamblers persist in gambling even after repeated losses.[medical citation needed] This is were the mafia often ends up making large profits for example Lucchese crime family book maker and collector "Big Mike Edwards" aka "Mikey muscles" would allow gamblers lines of credit and charge high percentage rates known as vigs to be paid weekly. Late or missed payments would result in visits and threats from such crime family members

The Russian writer and problem gambler Fyodor Dostoevsky portrays in his novella The Gambler the psychological implications of gambling and how gambling can affect gamblers. He also associates gambling and the idea of "getting rich quick", suggesting that Russians may have a particular affinity for gambling. Dostoevsky shows the effect of betting money for the chance of gaining more in 19th-century Europe. The association between Russians and gambling has fed legends of the origins of Russian roulette. There are many symptoms and reasons for gambling. Gamblers gamble more money to try and win back money that they have lost and some gamble to relieve feelings of helplessness and anxiety.[41]

The Advertising Standards Authority has censured several betting firms for advertisements disguised as news articles suggesting falsely a person had cleared debts and paid for medical expenses by online gambling. The firms face possible fines.[42]

Psychological biases[edit]

Gamblers exhibit a number of cognitive and motivational biases that distort the perceived odds of events and that influence their preferences for gambles. For example, gamblers exhibit a costly aversion to betting against their favorite team or political candidate.[43]

  • Preference for likely outcomes. When gambles are selected through a choice process - when people indicate which gamble they prefer from a set of gambles (e.g., win/lose, over/under) - people tend to prefer to bet on the outcome that is more likely to occur. Bettors tend to prefer to bet on favorites in athletic competitions, and sometimes will accept even bets on favorites when offered more favorable bets on the less likely outcome (e.g., an underdog team).[44]
  • Optimism/Desirability Bias. Gamblers also exhibit optimism, overestimating the likelihood that desired events will occur. Fans of NFL underdog teams, for example, will prefer to bet on their teams at even odds than to bet on the favorite, whether the bet is $5 or $50.[45]
  • Reluctance to bet against (hedge) desired outcomes.[43] People are reluctant to bet against desired outcomes that are relevant to their identity. Gamblers exhibit reluctance to bet against the success of their preferred U.S. presidential candidates and Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball, and NCAA hockey teams. More than 45% of NCAA fans in Studies 5 and 6, for instance, turned down a "free" real $5 bet against their team. From a psychological perspective, such a "hedge" creates an interdependence dilemma—a motivational conflict between a short-term monetary gain and the long-term benefits accrued from feelings of identification with and loyalty to a position, person, or group whom the bettor desires to succeed. In economic terms, this conflicted decision can be modeled as a trade-off between the outcome utility gained by hedging (e.g., money) and the diagnostic costs it incurs (e.g., disloyalty). People make inferences about their beliefs and identity from their behavior. If a person is uncertain about an aspect of her identity, such as the extent to which she values a candidate or team, hedging may signal to her that she is not as committed to that candidate or team as she originally believed. If the diagnostic cost of this self-signal and the resulting identity change are substantial, it may outweigh the outcome utility of hedging, and she may reject even very generous hedges.[43]
  • Ratio bias. Gamblers will prefer gambles with worse odds that are drawn from a large sample (e.g., drawing one red ball from an urn containing 89 red balls and 11 blue balls) to better odds that are drawn from a small sample (drawing one red ball from an urn containing 9 red balls and one blue ball).[46]
  • Gambler's fallacy/positive recency bias.

See also[edit]


  1. ^Rose, I. Nelson; Loeb, Robert A. (1998). Blackjack and the law (1st ed.). Oakland, CA: RGE Pub. p. 109. ISBN 978-0910575089. 
  2. ^"United Kingdom Office of Public Sector Information: Definition as Gaming". Opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  3. ^Humphrey, Chuck. "Gambling Law US". Gambling Law US. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  4. ^"UK Gambling Commission". Gamblingcommission.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  5. ^"You bet". The Economist. 8 July 2010. 
  6. ^Schwartz, David (January 7, 2013). Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling. Winchester Books. ISBN 978-0615847788. 
  7. ^Wilkins, Sally (April 30, 2002). Sports and Games of Medieval Cultures. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313360794. 
  8. ^Thomassen, Bjørn (2014). Liminality and the Modern: Living Through the In-Between. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 160. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  9. ^"Nevada Gaming Control Board : Home". Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  10. ^See 38 Am. Jur. 2d Gambling § 162.
  11. ^Annotation, 44 A.L.R.2d 1242.
  12. ^141 Cal. 2d 304, 295 P.2d 576 (3d Dist. 1956) (wife entitled to recover husband's gambling losses on the ground that he had made a gift of community property without her written consent); see also 38 Am. Jur. 2d Gambling § 175 (statutory provisions allowing third parties to recover gambling losses).
  13. ^Bose, M. L. (1998). Social And Cultural History Of Ancient India (revised & Enlarged Edition). Concept Publishing Company. p. 179. ISBN 978-81-7022-598-0. 
  14. ^Berel Wein. "Gambling". torah.org. Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  15. ^Kucharek, Rev. Cass (1974). To settle your conscience a layman's guide to Catholic moral theology. Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 0-87973-877-4. 
  16. ^"Blaise Pascal - Mathematician, Physicist and Thinker - D. Adamson - Palgrave Macmillan". Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  17. ^Moran, Dylan. "Is Gambling a Mortal Sin in the Bible? | tech-life-game-news". Christianpost.com. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  18. ^"Is Gambling a Sin?". 2 January 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  19. ^"ADOM :: Florida bishops oppose expanding casino gambling". Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  20. ^Courier, By Mike Latona/Catholic. "State's bishops oppose casino expansion - Catholic Courier". Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. 
  21. ^"Kentucky bishops urge opposition to casino gambling : News Headlines". Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  22. ^"Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield opposes casino despite selling 1st parcel of land to MGM". Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  23. ^"Catholic bishops oppose casino idea". Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  24. ^http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/gambling
  25. ^http://www.worldspirituality.org/moral02.html
  26. ^https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/gambling
  27. ^http://www.freemethodist.org.uk/articles/the-dangerous-rise-of-gambling.php
  28. ^http://www.waterbeachsalvationarmy.org.uk/what-to-know-more/why-dont-salvationists-drink-smoke-or-gamble/
  29. ^http://www.crivoice.org/creednazarene.html
  30. ^http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/564/resolution-on-gambling
  31. ^https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Gambling-and-Lotteries
  32. ^https://www.lds.org/topics/gambling?lang=eng
  33. ^http://incworld.faithweb.com/info.htm
  34. ^Morrison, Rod (2012). The Principles of Project Finance. p. 50. 
  35. ^Feener, Michael (2013). Sharia and Social Engineering. p. 145. 
  36. ^"International Association of Gaming Regulators: Members". Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. 
  37. ^"The Game of Two up". Gambling Info. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  38. ^"US election betting backs Bush". ABC.net. 2004-10-28. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  39. ^"Gambling Concepts And Nomenclature"(PDF). 
  40. ^"What Is Process Addiction & Types of Addictive Behaviors?". 
  41. ^"Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic". 
  42. ^Betting firms could be fined over ads 'targeting vulnerable people'The Guardian
  43. ^ abcMorewedge, Carey K.; Tang, Simone; Larrick, Richard P. (2016-10-12). "Betting Your Favorite to Win: Costly Reluctance to Hedge Desired Outcomes". Management Science. doi:10.1287/mnsc.2016.2656. ISSN 0025-1909. 
  44. ^Simmons, Joseph P.; Nelson, Leif D. "Intuitive confidence: Choosing between intuitive and nonintuitive alternatives". Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 135 (3): 409–428. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.135.3.409. 
  45. ^Simmons, Joseph P.; Massey, Cade. "Is optimism real?". Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 141 (4): 630–634. doi:10.1037/a0027405. 
  46. ^Pacini, Rosemary; Epstein, Seymour (June 1999). "The relation of rational and experiential information processing styles to personality, basic beliefs, and the ratio-bias phenomenon". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 76 (6): 972–987. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.76.6.972. PMID 10402681. 

External links[edit]

Look up gambling in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Gambling
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gambling.
Gloria Mundi, or The Devil addressing the sun, a cartoon showing the British politician Charles James Fox standing on a roulette wheel perched atop a globe showing England and continental Europe. The implication is that his penniless state, indicated by turned-out pockets, is due to gambling.
A gambling stand in Paris

by Trung Nguyen

1. Definition

2. Classification

3. Reasons people become addicted

4. Risk factors

5. Types of gamblers

6. Phases of gambling addiction

7. Characteristics of compulsive gamblers

8. Gambling a type of drug

9. How gambling is similar to drugs

10. Gambling is worse than alcohol and drugs

11. How to tell if a co-worker is a gambler

12. Cross-addiction

13. Consequences of gambling addiction

14. Co-dependency

15. Enabling

16. Helping a problem gambler

17. How do I overcome gambling addiction?

18. Gambling addiction as a mental illness

19. Links




The literal meaning of "gambling addiction" is:

Gambling: To engage in reckless or hazardous behavior.

Addiction: Habitual psychological and physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one's voluntary control.

The literal definition of gambling addiction implies that it is:


1. a behavioral problem.
2. a psychological problem.
3. a physiological problem.
4. a form of substance abuse.

You will notice that, contrary to what many believe, gambling addiction is not a money problem. Most people gamble to escape from stress, a painful past, to seek arousal, or to be in "action."

Gambling addiction is also known as compulsive gambling, pathological gambling, and problem gambling. The technical definitions of gambling addiction are:


1. Pathological gambling is a psychiatric disorder characterized according to the international diagnostic classification DSM-IV, by persistent, recurrent and maladaptive gambling behavior which disrupts the subject's personal, family and working life.

2. A progressive disorder characterized by a continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; a preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money with which to gamble; irrational thinking; and a continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences. [back to top]



Gambling addiction is classified slightly different depending on how the symptoms are diagnosed. Gamblers Anonymous and the American Psychiatric Association use different symptoms to diagnose the problem.

YouTube video:

Gamblers Anonymous (GA). According to Gamblers Anonymous, gambling addiction is the most "insidious and baffling" disease. Like cancer, there is no known cure for it. You can only arrest the problem, or put it in remission but never be fully cured. Gamblers Anonymous believes that character defects are a major contributor to the problem. Some of these character defects listed by Gamblers Anonymous are:

Jealousy Lazines Profanity Procrastination Self-Seeking Remorse Worry Fear Intolerance Egotism Anxiety Dishonesty Impatience Anger Arrogance Frustration Condemnation of others Self-Pity Selfishness Revenge Conceit Inadequacy False pride Bigotry Resentment Hatred

American Psychiatric Association (APA). The American Psychiatric Association has labeled the problem as a "mental illness" or mental disorder. Gambling addiction is classified in the same category as clinical depression, manic depression (bipolar disorder), attention deficit disorder (ADD), schizophrenia, and personality disorder (narcissistic personality). Furthermore, a mental illness is classified as a disease by the APA. Therefore gambling addiction is considered a mental disease that causes a disturbance in thoughts, irrational behaviors, and the inability to cope with the demands of daily life (stress, routines, confrontation, and interpersonal relationships).

Below are some symptoms of mental illness, which gambling addiction is considered one according to the APA.


* irrational and confused thinking
* prolonged sadness or irritability eventually leading to depression
* extreme mood of highs and lows
* irrational and excessive worries and fears
* isolation and social withdrawal
* changes in sleeping and eating patterns
* substance abuse (gambling, prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, overeating)
* excessive anger
* hallucinations or delusions
* inability to cope with daily problems as part of normal life
* thoughts of suicide
* denying that problems don't exist

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The Centers for Disease Control labeled gambling addiction as an "impulse control disorder." Impulse control disorder is a group of psychiatric disorders whose symptoms include compulsive gambling, pyromania (setting fire), compulsive shopping and spending, addiction to video games and the Internet, excessive anger, compulsive pulling of hair, compulsive stealing, etc.). For example, someone who has an impulse control disorder will act on impulse even when they know the negative consequences in advance.

Scientists. Recently scientists have classified gambling addiction as a neurobiological disorder, a chemical dependency of the brain similar to those addicted to drugs such as cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and alcohol (alcohol is considered a drug). According to these scientists, gambling is a drug because its psychoactive effects are similar to tangible drugs. For example, under an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, the affected areas of the brain of a gambling addict are the same as those of a cocaine addict.

Psychologists. According to psychologists, gambling addiction is a problem rooted in the subconscious mind of the addict, such as the dark, hidden past stemming from childhood, unresolved conflicts with parents and authorities, and narcissism. Some psychoanalysts have suggested that problem gamblers are masochists who subconsciously want to punish themselves( self-punishment) to alleviate feelings of guilt, possibly to amend for transgressions.

According to Sigmund Freud, gambling addiction, like most addictions, is a secondary addiction to the primary addiction of masturbation. Freud suggested that sex and aggression were the primary determinants in our behavior. He suggested that sexuality is linked with anxiety, and that sexuality needed an outlet. One of the triggers for gambling relapse is anxiety, which can be caused by sexual tension, stress, or apprehension about future events. Therefore, sexuality, stress, and anxiety are linked and the gambler gambles to release anxiety, sexual pressure, or stress. Freud gives an example of anxiety as when you feel threatened, feel overwhelmed, or feel as if you were about to collapse under the weight of it all. He once said, "Life is not easy!"

Former Addicts and Freewill Advocates. Those who have conquered the problem on their own believe that gambling addiction is simply a problem, or a choice that the addict has made through his or her freewill. They believe the problem is being medicalized (disease theories) and biologicalized (genetic theories) and oppose those views. They do not view gambling as an evil, disease, illness, or disorder, but that it is simply an activity. Some studies have shown that those who were able to overcome gambling addiction did so in stages, relapsing at first but eventually reaching their final goal. Some studies have also shown that it is possible for former compulsive gamblers to gamble responsibly without losing control when they were able to resolve the underlying issues that initially led them to gamble compulsively. [back to top]


3. Reasons people become addicted to gambling

There are 6 main reasons people become addicted to gambling. They are:


1. To cope with traumatic life experiences. People gamble to avoid uncomfortable or painful emotions, including sadness (passing of loved ones), guilt, shame, anger, humiliation, failure and frustration. Gambling provides the illusion of control in uncontrollable situations and environments.

2. To chase losses. Chasing past losses is the result of experiencing early wins. After a winning streak, the gambler is deluded with the idea of the "Big Win." The gambler thinks that through this Big Win, his or her bills will be paid and problems solved. The Big Win is an illusion that keeps the gambler in action until he or she admits there is a problem and seeks help.

3. As a form of stimulation. Some people knowingly or unknowingly seek the risky, naughty, thrill-seeking lifestyle through gambling. They surrender to their impulses and gambling acts as a drug that is as powerful as any available.

4. As a coping mechanism. Problem gamblers seek the "zone out" or "in my own little world" effect. They feel the need to escape the stress, demands, and pressures of daily life.

5. To climb the economic ladder. Some gamblers have the illusion, indoctrinated through advertising, that gambling can provide a steady income and money will solve their problems.

6. To self-sabotage their success. Some problem gamblers feel uncomfortable with, guilty about, or undeserving of their success. Gambling is used as a tool for self-destruction. The reasons behind their need for self-destruction are rooted in the past which psychology can explain. [back to top]


4. What are the risk factors of gambling addiction?

Coping Strategies. Coping strategies are life management skills, which include the ability to deal with the demands of every day life at home and work. These life management skills are required to effectively deal with stress, interpersonal relationships, setbacks, disappointments, and obstacles that are a part of life. Problem gamblers often lack coping strategies and gamble to escape adversity and hardship.

Impulsivity. Impulsivity is the inability of the gambler to control their behavior even when they know the consequences beforehand through experience. Impulsivity stems from personality. One trait of impulsivity is the inability to delay decision-making.

Stress. Most relapses are the result of reaction to stress. Stress can come from work, home, and relationships with acquaintances and friends.

Antisocial Behavior. Gambling is considered a deviant behavior (anti-social in nature) if someone continues to gamble despite knowing the negative consequences to themselves and those in their lives. Some anti-social behaviors include:


* lying to or conning others for fun or for personal benefit
* being irresponsible, not holding down a job or paying back money
* being impulsive and not considering the results of a certain behavior
* breaking laws
* ignoring the safety of self or others
* lacking remorse, not worrying about hurting other people
* picking on other people or getting into fights

Depression. The debate is still ongoing as to whether gambling addiction is the cause of depression or depression is the cause of gambling addiction.

Gender. It used to be that men were more likely to become problem gamblers than women were. However, that is no longer the case. Women are now being targeted by the gambling industry just as men are. Men who become problem gamblers start gambling as teenagers, while women develop the problem later in life, usually 30 years old and up.

Socio-economic Status. As measured by percentage, people with low income lose more to gambling than those with high income. Those making less than $20,000 a year are likely to lose about 3% of their income to gambling, while those making over $30,000 will lose about 2% of their income to gambling. People with low income tend to view gambling as a quick ticket out of poverty.

Family History. If you have a parent or anyone in your immediate family who is a problem gambler, you are at a much higher risk of becoming one yourself. This could be due to hereditary (genetics) or social learning (behaviors you learned from family members and peers growing up).

Irrational Thinking. Irrational thinking is also known as the "Gambler's Fallacy." Problem gamblers tend to look for patterns in random events. For example, if they lose 3 times in a row, then they think a win is due soon. They expect their luck to change if things are going against them. However, in reality any game of chance is fixed according to mathematical probabilities and losing 3, 4, 5, 6, or even 10 times in a row does not guarantee that a win is around the corner. [back to top]


5. How many types of gamblers are there?

There are six types of gamblers identified by Dr. Robert L. Custer.


1. Escape gamblers
2.Compulsive gamblers
3. Professional gamblers
4. Anti-social or personality gamblers
5. Casual social gamblers
6. Serious social gamblers

Furthermore, gamblers can be divided into two main groups: Action gamblers and Escape gamblers.

Action Gamblers: Action gamblers are mostly male who started their gambling careers as teenagers. Their addiction usually lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 years. Action gamblers prefer games that are perceived to have elements of skill involved(in reality, there is very little skill involved in any game of chance). Their games of choice include poker, online poker, blackjack, craps, sports betting, horse racing, or any game where they are presented with the opportunity to beat another player or the house. They usually develop gambling systems that are effective in the short-run but ineffective in the long-run, since the house or casino always has the mathematical advantage in the long-run.

Action gamblers have personality traits that are domineering, manipulative, controlling, and egotistic. They tend to have above average IQ's (over 120 versus the average of 100). They are known to be friendly, sociable, generous, assertive and confident. But despite some of their good character traits, they have very low self-esteem.

Action gamblers gamble to obtain the euphoric high that cocaine addicts crave. After prolonged exposure to gambling, action gamblers get that high just by thinking about gambling or planning when they'll gamble next. Like all problem gamblers, action gamblers eventually become detached from reality and become very good at lying; they eventually even lie to themselves.

Escape Gamblers: Escape gamblers are mostly (over 65%) female who develop the problem later in life, usually after 30 years old. They prefer games that are perceived to have no elements of skill; these games include video poker, lottery, bingo, and slot machines. These games provide the relief from emotional (or sometimes physical) pain. While gambling, escape gamblers are numbed by the drug-effect of gambling and find themselves in a hypnotic-like state--their problems disappear while they're "in action."

Escape gamblers are known to be reserved, but they can also be manipulative when the occasion calls for it (obtaining money to gamble). As an adult, they tend to be nurturing and are afraid of confrontation. Some escape gamblers were physically or verbally abused as children. The escape gambler, like the action gambler, has low-self esteem. [back to top]


6. What are the phases of gambling addiction?

The winning phase: The winning phase is when the gambler experiences the early wins. They brag and exaggerate about their winnings and exude the image of the "big shot." They are very optimistic about winning. They think (falsely) that gambling will provide them with the good life without hard work, patience, and diligence.

The losing phase: The losing phase is when the losing streaks begin; the true odds of gambling are being reflected and the gambler doesn't stand a chance regardless what system he or she uses. At this point the gambler begins to miss work, asks for bailouts, neglects bills, borrows to gamble, lies to cover losses, and manipulates to get money for gambling. In the losing phase, the gambler thinks he's facing a temporary period of bad luck. However, it's not luck he's up against but the mathematics (probabilities) designed into every game of chance to ensure that the house or casino always wins.

The desperate phase: In the desperate phase the gambler faces isolation from friends and family. He feels remorse for the money he's lost and for his inability to control his behavior. As a result panic ensues and he becomes desperate. He now has to decide whether to continue to gamble or quit. His reputation with those around him is affected, but rather than look inward he'll blame others, out of frustration and anger, for the predicament he's in. He is unwilling to accept responsibility and the consequences of his behavior. At this point, some problem gamblers will resort to illegal activities to finance their gambling.

The critical phase: During the critical phase, the gambler realizes he is not making any progress in life and gambling isn't going to provide him with the good life he's imagined. He tries to be more responsible and is hopeful for the future. He is a more productive employee at work and becomes realistic about his money goals. Slowly he puts his pride aside and reaches out for help, either through counseling, Gamblers Anonymous, books, or a combination of the three, and begins to examine his spiritual needs.

The rebuilding phrase: The building phase is about self-examination. Here the gambler accepts his strengths and weaknesses. He begins to pay his bills, develops new hobbies, and seeks new goals. He becomes more patient, less irritable and spends more time with his friends and family. Semblances of a normal life begin to return.

The growth phrase: The growth phase is when the gambler develops a higher consciousness. He seeks self-understanding through studying psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. He learns the power of forgiveness and its role in putting the past behind in order to live in the present. Through self-examination he is able to forgive himself and others. He becomes more generous and understands his own needs and wants and the needs and wants of other people. He also deals with problems as they arise, accepts the hardships of life, and becomes realistic rather than overly optimistic or pessimistic about situations. He takes life one day at a time and deals with whatever life throws at him. He is comfortable in his own skin and doesn't feel the need to control, manipulate, or lie. He makes progress as a human being and begins to contribute to the community in which he or she lives. [back to top]


7. What are the characteristics of compulsive gamblers?


* Thoughts are preoccupied with gambling.
* Increasing the amount wagered to get the same level of excitement.
* Failed in attempts to curtail or quit gambling, becomes restless and irritable when he can't control his impulse to gamble.
* Gambling becomes a means to escape from problems in life.
* Guilt, depression, helplessness, and anxiety become triggers for gambling.
* Chases loss until credit cards, bank cards are overextended and loans are used up.
* Denies and lies to friends and family on the magnitude of the problem.
* Commits crime such as fraud, forgery, embezzlement, and theft to finance gambling.
* Gambling becomes more important than career, education, relationships, and important opportunities in life.
* Becomes co-dependent--relies on others for money and emotional needs. [back to top]


8. Is gambling addiction a type of drug?

Like alcohol, gambling is classified as a drug. However, alcohol is classified as a depressant while gambling is classified as a stimulant. As a drug, gambling is a psycho-stimulant, but at the same time it also has an anesthetic effect. Gambling has the same psychoactive properties as cocaine and heroin--the same chemicals are affected (adrenaline, dopamine, endorphins) in all three drugs when the addicts are in action. Gamblers do not gamble for money but seek "action" through the psychoactive drug-like effects offered by gambling.

Many have argued that gambling is much more dangerous than alcohol, cocaine, or heroin. Chronic Alcoholism may take 5 to 20 years to develop, but people can become addicted to gambling on their very first try. Like cocaine and heroin addicts, problem gamblers go through rituals and seek immediate gratification. These rituals might include what shirt to wear, what machines to play, what table to sit at, what team to bet on, what dealer to play with, or what lucky artifact to bring with them when they're in action. [back to top]


9. How is gambling addiction like a drug?

The same chemicals, or hormones, are released in the brains of gambling addicts and drug addicts when they are in "action." These include adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins.

Adrenaline: Adrenaline is a hormone made and secreted by the adrenal gland. It makes the heart beat faster, raises blood pressure, and induces a state of excitement or "high." We've all heard of the phrase, "A rush of adrenaline."

Dopamine: Dopamine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that when it finds its way to its receptor sites, it blocks the tendency of that neuron to fire. Dopamine is associated with the reward mechanisms in the brain. Drugs like cocaine, opium, heroin, and alcohol promote the release of dopamine, as does nicotine and gambling.

Endorphins: Endorphins is short for endogenuous morphine, which is a type of built-in heroin in the body. Endorphins are structurally similar to the opioid drugs (opium, morphine, heroin, etc.) and have similar functions. Endorphins are mostly involved in pain reduction, similar to the way opioids work: they numb pain. It is known that many problem gamblers gamble to escape emotional pain, stemming from childhood or recent traumatic life experiences.

When problem gamblers quit suddenly or they're forced to because they are out of money, they face the same physical withdrawal symptoms as drug addicts. This is the reason that well-educated, intelligent, wealthy people with no addiction background turn to crime to feed their gambling habit after being "hooked." [back to top]


10. Why do opponents of gambling believe it is worse than alcohol and drugs?

Just as there are drug addiction treatment programs for drug addicts, there are also treatment programs that tackle gambling addiction issues.

Below are some reasons why opponents of gambling believe it is more dangerous than alcohol or drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana):


* There are no visible signs. Compulsive gambling has been called an invisible disease because gambling addicts exhibit few signs. A drug addict might act strange or have bodily marks, an alcoholic might smell and stagger, but a problem gambler exhibits no physical signs of his or her problem.

* It is widely available. Take note of how many places you can gamble at a moment's notice: the phone or computer, community halls (bingo), the workplace (raffles and office pools), corner grocery stores (lottery), fund raisers, shopping malls, social events (poker nights, charity), restaurants and bars (VLTs). Gambling is everywhere.

* It is legal. Gambling is advertised as a form of entertainment, and in some cases as a lifestyle, giving the public the perception that it is a harmless activity. Gambling is also advertised as a form of charity, prompting people to believe that if they gamble they are contributing to the good of the community.

* It can lead to financial ruin in a short period. A gambler can lose hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars in less than 30 seconds by placing a single bet. Your financial losses are unlimited. No other addiction can lead to financial ruin as quick as gambling. [back to top]


11. How do you know if someone you work with is a compulsive gambler?

Henry Lesieur, Ph.D., has performed many studies on compulsive gambling. He identified several signs that you can look for to determine if someone you work with has a gambling problem.


1. Uses telephone often, likely to call bookies, loan sharks or stockbrokers.
2. Uses company vehicle to drive to race track or casino during company time.
3. Absent from work for part of a day, usually after lunch.
4. Usually arrives late for work as the result of gambling on the previous night.
5. Takes vacation on isolated, non-continuous rather than continuous days.
6. Uses sick days ahead of time.
7. Doesn't take days off for fear embezzlement and fraud will be discovered.
8. Inconsistency and severe mood swings, performs well one day and poorly the next.
9. Invites colleagues to gambling excursions and organizes office pools.
10. Borrows money from colleagues and friends to finance gambling.
11. Theft, embezzlement and fraud against company or customers, hiding transactions and skimming money that should have gone to the employer. [back to top]


12. What is cross-addiction in the context of gambling addiction?

Addicts usually have a drug of choice, whether it is gambling, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin or another drug. However, most addicts are addicted to more than one drug at a time or they might alternate between their drug of choice and another drug. For example, a problem gambler might take up alcohol while he's gambling. Or he might give up gambling for awhile to do other drugs. However, most addicts usually return to their drug of choice after experimenting with other drugs. [back to top]


13. What are the consequences of gambling addiction?


* Large debts that take a long time to pay off
* Relationship problems with spouse, friends, and family members
* Loss of reputation in the community
* Loss of employment
* Poor performance in school; if problem persists, dropping out of school
* Problems with the law if fraud, embezzlement and other crimes are involved.
* Problems with mood swings and physical problems such as losing or gaining weight.
* Thoughts of suicide. Gambler addicts are more likely to commit suicide than drug addicts are. [back to top]


14. What is co-dependency in the context of gambling addiction?

Co-dependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects the problem gambler's ability to have healthy relationships. Co-dependency is also known as "relationship addiction." People with codependency are in relationships that are emotionally destructive and abusive. It is believed that co-dependency behavior is learned by imitating family members who are or were co-dependent. Co-dependent behaviors were learned by family members to survive in an emotionally painful and stressful environment. These co-dependent behaviors are passed on from generation to generation. You might want to examine if co-dependency is one contributor to your compulsive gambling.

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look to externals, rather than internals, to make themselves feel better. They are not comfortable in their own skin and find it hard to be themselves. They try to feel better through alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and of course gambling.

Below are some characteristics of co-dependency:


1. I put my values aside to fit in.
2. I need you to like me in order to feel good about myself.
3. I need approval from you to feel good about myself.
4. I'm worried more about your problems than I am with my problems.
5. I need to put your happiness before mine before I can feel good about myself.
6. You are the center of my attention.
7. I try to manipulate you into doing things my way.
8. When I solve your problems, my self-esteem increases.
10. Your hobbies and interests are more important than mine.
11. You should behave according to my desires for me to feel good about myself.
12. I neglect my feelings and pay attention to your feelings.
13. My dreams and future are linked to yours.
14. My fear of rejection determines what I say and do.
15. My fear of your anger determines what I say and do. [back to top]


15. What is enabling in the context of gambling addiction?

Enabling is when you do anything that helps the gambler to continue with his addiction. For example, if you pay his bills for him, lend or give him money, you become an enabler. If you lie to help him cover his lies, you are an enabler. Or if you offer ultimatums in order to control his behavior, you are an enabler. Even if you in any way, directly or indirectly, make it easier for him to continue with his compulsive gambling, you are an enabler.

By enabling, you are guilty by association. [back to top]


16. How do I help someone who is addicted to gambling?

It is hard to help someone unless they want to help themselves. It's hard enough to change who we are, so trying to change someone else is a daunting, if not an impossible task. The best way to help someone who is addicted to gambling is to make suggestions or offer advice.


1. Help them indirectly to set goals and work out a strategy with them to reach those goals. For example, if they gamble to escape problems in life, buy them a book that teaches life management and coping skills. You can also offer your own life experiences that they can relate to. If they gamble to get the high, give them a gym pass or several bungy jumping passes. You can come up with many creative solutions without becoming an enabler or putting his needs and wants before your own.

2. Stop lending them money for bailouts or lying to cover for them. That is stop, enabling them.

3. Buy them books about compulsive gambling, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. If the problem persists, seek professional help. [back to top]


17. How do I overcome gambling addiction?

You can attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings if there is a chapter in your area. You can seek counseling through a psychologist or psychiatrist, or other health practitioners. Alternatively, you can do it on your own through self-help by reading books and learning from the experiences of others who have gone through what you're going through. Or you can combine several methods, or even come up with your own.

If you want to get different perspectives on the problem, read the forum posts, journals, stories, and discussions on this site.


18. Does mental illness exist?

Gambling addiction is classified as a mental illness or a mental disorder by psychologists and psychiatrists. It is a disease according to most who have studied the problem. Does it mean they're right? You have to educate yourself.

It's a good idea to have a conceptual overview of the problem. That way, you'll be educated on the different aspects of the problem rather than being force fed a particular doctrine of recovery. The links below can help you to better understand the problem.

1. The Myth of Mental Illness. Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, a very respected member of the medical community, argues that a separation should be made between the brain and the mind when diagnosing mental illnesses. His conclusion is that mental illnesses, such as compulsive gambling, do not exist because they are wrongly diagnosed.

2. Gambling is classified as a mental illness, but does mental illness exist? This is an article from Wikipedia that also examines the nature of mental illnesses, if they exist at all.

3. Is Addiction a disease?. Another article that examines the semantics of disease and questions whether most illnesses are actually simply problems.

4. A doctor gives his views on whether addiction is a disease or a choice. Stanton Peele, Ph.D, has written several books on addiction. His conclusion? Addiction, as it is currently classified, does not exist. Addiction, even gambling addiction, is a choice. And the Gamblers Anonymous 12-Step program can be detrimental to recovery.

5. Addiction is a Choice, a book by Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D. Another doctor examines the nature of addiction. He also concludes that the concept of addiction as a mental illness and disease has no scientific foundation.

6. Is Addiction Just a Matter of Choice? by John Stossel, ABC News. A brief article on the controversy of whether addiction is a choice or a disease.

7. Gambling Addiction and Suicide. This article looks at the rise of suicide rates of gambling addicts.

8. How gambling addiction turned a mother into a monster. We have all heard stories of what compulsive gamblers are capable of. This is one gory example of those stories taken to the extreme.

9. A tragic story of how a son's death turns an honest father into a gambling addict. Another tragic story of how a life was ruined by gambling.

10. Does mental illness, such as gambling addiction, exist? A very insightful article into the nature of addiction.

11. Connection between a prescribed drug, Mirapex, and compulsive gambling. Drugs have been prescribed for every problem. This one, Mirapex, the drug prescribed for Parkinson's disease, is known to cause gambling addiction.

12. The rise of gambling deaths. Despair is one result of gambling addiction and this report might just be the proof. [back to top]


19. Links

1. Gamblers Anonymous.This is the official site of Gamblers Anonymous and its 12-Step program.

2. Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery. This site contains additional information on gambling addiction.

3. The Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues. A site that offers research and stories on compulsive gambling.

4. CNN Gambling Addiction. This report compares the similarities of gambling addiction to alcholism.

5. The National Council on Gambling Addiction. This site offers literature and support for problem gamblers. [back to top]



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