Gambling is the wagering of something of value (the stakes) on an event with an uncertain outcome – such as a roll of dice, spin of the roulette wheel or racehorses crossing the finish line. In addition to winning money, gambling also provides social opportunities and can enhance skills such as pattern recognition, math and critical thinking in skill-based games like blackjack or poker.

While many people can walk away from a game of poker or a few rounds of slot machines, others struggle to stop. The reason is that a few wins can activate the brain’s reward system and trigger the release of dopamine, creating a positive feedback loop. This is why it’s important to gamble responsibly – and know your limits!

Research has shown that certain individuals are predisposed to gambling addiction, particularly those with a genetic under-activity in the brain’s reward system. This can make it more difficult for them to control impulses and assess risk. In addition, impulsive behaviours can be amplified by environmental factors such as stress and the use of drugs or alcohol.

Negative impacts of gambling can be classified into three categories: financial, labor and health/well-being. These can manifest on the personal and interpersonal levels, in terms of changes to finances, work performance and job losses/gains; or on the community/societal level, such as increased taxes and infrastructure cost or value change. The most common negative impact is an increased risk of problem gambling, which can lead to financial problems and straining or even breaking relationships. However, it is possible to overcome a gambling problem, and we encourage you to seek help if you need it.