Gambling Addiction

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (often money) on a random event with the intent to win something else of value. It includes all types of games of chance, from lottery tickets and street magic boxes to betting on sports events and online casino games. While gambling can be a source of pleasure, it also can harm your health and relationships, impoverish your family, impact work performance and study, cause bankruptcy and even lead to homelessness. It’s also a big business. The legal gambling industry generates revenues of more than $335 billion in the United States alone and operates worldwide, from smoky casinos in Las Vegas to mobile apps that offer bets on any event, anywhere.

People have gambled since ancient times, with dice and guessing games being recorded in cultures as diverse as the Bushmen of South Africa, Australian Aborigines, and American Indians. In modern times, gambling is a widespread activity, occurring in most societies and including many forms that are not traditionally viewed as gambling, such as playing marbles or collecting collectible game pieces.

While most people have placed a bet at some point in their lives, there are a subset of those who struggle with problem gambling. The disorder is characterized by the uncontrollable urge to gamble, often in spite of significant negative consequences. It is one of the few addictions that can have such a profound negative effect on a person’s life.

In my experience working in the field of problem gambling, I’ve discovered some common features of those struggling with the disorder. They include an early big win, a misperception that gambling is low risk and high reward, the use of escape coping (e.g., drinking), a tendency to be impulsive and lack understanding of the odds of an event, the illusion of control, stressful life experiences and depression.

If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling, it’s important to seek help. CU Boulder students, staff and faculty can get support through CAPS counseling and psychiatry services, AcademicLiveCare and Let’s Talk sessions. You can also schedule a screening or appointment with a counselor or therapist through the Virtual Care service, which is free and accessible to everyone at any time. The virtual services allow you to talk with a provider through video chat from wherever you are in the world. You can access Virtual Care from your laptop, tablet or phone. There are also many self-help resources available online. In addition to gambling, you can seek support for a variety of other challenges and behaviors. Here are some of the most popular ones: