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This guide provides information and resources on the topic of gambling.

What is Gambling?

Gambling is taking part in a game during which you risk money, or something of monetary value, in order to win money or a prize. The outcome of the game is usually down to chance, so when gambling you might leave with less money than you started off with, and sometimes with nothing at all.

There are many forms of gambling, including lotteries and scratchcards, card games like poker and blackjack, betting on sports or events, playing casino games, gambling machines or bingo. Many people enjoy gambling, whether having a flutter on the Grand National or buying the odd scratchcard, or taking part in gambling on a more regular basis. Gambling is not a bad thing, but it can be risky, so we need to keep ourselves informed and make safer choices.


Additional Information

We all understand that gambling offers you the chance of winning money or prizes, but have you considered some of the other reasons for gambling? A look into the psychology of gambling offers insight into that question.

Risk Taking

One of the reasons for gambling is that it's human nature to feel excited when taking risks and the positive feeling gained from gambling is no different. "Will my numbers come up?" "Will my team win?" The sense of anticipation creates a natural high, an adrenalin rush, a feeling that very many of us seek when looking for fun and entertainment. A feeling that some people believe they cannot live without.


The gambling environment can provide an escape from everyday life. Whether it be the glitzy casino environment, a loud and exciting amusement arcade or even an online betting company, for the time that we are taking part we can be surrounded by different people, different sounds and emotions, all of which stimulate and arouse our senses.


The media and advertising agencies understand the psychology of gambling and often portray a stylish, sexy, fashionable image of gambling. In film and TV, we see characters enjoying a night at the casino or an afternoon at the races. There is often a suggestion of 'high society' and attending at 'a place to be seen'.


Gambling is accepted as part of this country's culture and as such is widely participated in (with varying frequency) by the majority of the population. Some young people are introduced to gambling by learning to play card games with their parents at home, maybe we go the bingo with friends on a Friday night or meet after school at the amusement arcade.

The Common Misperception

The above reasons for gambling all tie into this: most people think about gambling as a low-risk, high-yield proposition. In reality, it's the opposite: a high-risk, low-yield situation. The odds always favor the house. Despite that, the thought and excitement of hitting a casino jackpot are often too alluring - regardless of its probability.

Healthy Place for your Mental Mind

Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you're willing to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value.

Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you have a problem with compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets that lead to losses, hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.

Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many people who struggle with compulsive gambling have found help through professional treatment.

Signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling (gambling disorder) include:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling, such as constantly planning how to get more gambling money
  • Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
  • Trying to control, cut back or stop gambling, without success
  • Feeling restless or irritable when you try to cut down on gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
  • Trying to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses)
  • Lying to family members or others to hide the extent of your gambling
  • Jeopardizing or losing important relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities because of gambling
  • Resorting to theft or fraud to get gambling money
  • Asking others to bail you out of financial trouble because you gambled money away

If you recognize your own behavior from the list of signs and symptoms for compulsive gambling, seek professional help.

Mayo Clinic


Exactly what causes someone to gamble compulsively isn't well-understood. Like many problems, compulsive gambling may result from a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors

Although most people who play cards or wager never develop a gambling problem, certain factors are more often associated with compulsive gambling:

  • Mental health disorders. People who gamble compulsively often have substance abuse problems, personality disorders, depression or anxiety. Compulsive gambling may also be associated with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Age. Compulsive gambling is more common in younger and middle-aged people. Gambling during childhood or the teenage years increases the risk of developing compulsive gambling. However, compulsive gambling in the older adult population can also be a problem.
  • Sex. Compulsive gambling is more common in men than women. Women who gamble typically start later in life and may become addicted more quickly. But gambling patterns among men and women have become increasingly similar.
  • Family or friend influence. If your family members or friends have a gambling problem, the chances are greater that you will, too.
  • Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome. Drugs called dopamine agonists have a rare side effect that may result in compulsive behaviors, including gambling, in some people.
  • Certain personality characteristics. Being highly competitive, a workaholic, impulsive, restless or easily bored may increase your risk of compulsive gambling.

Mayo Clinic

Teenage gambling is the fastest rising addiction today. About one in eight of the eight million compulsive gamblers are now teenagers, whereas just fifteen years ago, there were virtually none. Fully 80% of all teenagers gamble in some way and 15% are problem gamblers. Dr. Jeremiah Weinstock of the University of Connecticut, an expert on teen gambling, believes that between 4% and 7% of all teenagers suffer from a gambling addiction that involves clinical depression, huge debts, disruption of relationships, and/or involvement with organized crime.

“Teenage gambling, like alcohol and drug abuse in the 1930s, is the fastest growing addiction,” said David Robertson of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. “It’s pernicious, it’s evil and it feeds on the weakest.”

The number of Internet gambling websites increased from almost zero to over 1400 by 2004. Teens gamble in the convenience of their homes without having to show any proof of age. They gamble any hour of the day or night, using parents’ credit cards. The majority of problem gamblers are males who bet on the outcomes of sports events or video games.

These are the warning signs that your teen may be a compulsive gambler. He borrows and/or steals money and has unexplained debts or extra cash. He sells household items and runs up credit cards, but when reproached, he lies about it. He may have unexcused absences from school or other activities. He receives phone calls from strangers and is obsessed about sports scores. He appears moody, distracted and depressed.

Compulsive gamblers need professional treatment and support.

CRC Health

Gambling can be a fun diversion for adults of any age. Many people enjoy going to the horse races, picking teams in an office pool, or dreaming of lottery winnings. For seniors, especially, a bingo parlor or casino can be a great opportunity for socializing and a nice break from routine life.

The great majority of people, young and old, gamble responsibly, but the pastime can certainly turn into a problem. By the most basic definition, people with a gambling problem are those who risk more than they can afford to lose. Many seniors realize they're in trouble when they start gambling away rent and prescription money, says Ron Karpin, senior outreach coordinator with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.

It's easy for friends and families to overlook an older person's out-of-control gambling, says Dennis McNeilly, PhD, a clinical geropsychologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who has extensively studied gambling among seniors. In many cases, adult children don't know how their parents spend their time or money and don't realize the scope of the problem until they help them pay bills or balance a checkbook.

Older people are the lifeblood of the gambling industry. And as gambling opportunities explode around the country, more and more seniors are catching the bug. A survey of over 6,500 older people in the Omaha, Nebraska, area (where three relatively new riverboat casinos now float) found that going to casinos was their second favorite activity, after bingo.

Seniors may do more than their share of gaming, but they are probably no more likely than others to become hooked, Karpin says. Roughly 3 percent to 5 percent of all gamblers, regardless of age, will become compulsive, he says. But as more seniors take up gambling, more fall into the trap.

Unlike younger gamblers, who go to casinos looking for action and excitement, many older people use gambling as an escape, McNeilly says. Not surprisingly, seniors with the greatest need for that escape are the most vulnerable to gambling problems. The great majority of older compulsive gamblers also suffer from anxiety or depression, he says. People who have recently lost a spouse, were diagnosed with a serious illness, or went through some other calamity are also at risk, he says.


USA gambling revenues increased to over $160 billion in 2018. Now that sports betting is legal, most gaming experts and financial analysts predict the total revenues for US betting each year will top $200 billion. 

U.S. Casino Revenues - 2018

In all, commercial casinos generated $51,395,562,664 in revenues in 2018. The total represents a 3.5% increase over 2017. Commercial casinos sustained 737,450 jobs and paid $34.334 billion in worker income. The Las Vegas Strip generated $6.59 billion in gaming revenues in 2018, making it the top destination. Atlantic City came in second with $2.51 billion,

Tribal Casino Revenues - 2018

Tribal casinos generated $32.801 billion in 2018 — a 3.5% increase over 2017. At its current pace, the tribal casino industry should overtake commercial casino revenues by the year 2030. Like the commercial gambling industry, a handful of tribal casinos launched sportsbooks.

US Lottery Revenues - 2018

The combined revenues of US lotteries for 2018 sit around the $72 billion mark. The U.S. Census Bureau releases the official lottery revenue statistics each year. So far, the Census Bureau has not released official 2018 lottery revenues. The 2017 lottery total was $71.826 billion, while the 2016 lottery statistics were $72.649 billion. That shows a regression of nearly $800 million from 2016 to 2017, though that number reflects a statistical anomaly in lottery drawings more than a loss of interest in the state and multistate lotteries.Given the recent trends, it’s a safe bet that US lottery revenues in 2018 were around $72 billion for the year. Mega Millions and Powerball drawings continue to dominate national attention, while their revenues increase year to year.

US  Pari-Mutuel Racebook Revenues - 2018

Pari-mutuel racebooks generated $300 million in revenues in 2018. Pari-mutuel wagering is the legal term for betting on horse racing and dog racing. Dog racing now is allowed in only 5 US states.

More statistics can be found at the Online United States Casinos website.

Online United States Casinos


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