Gambling Disorders


For most people, gambling is a fun and exciting way to spend leisure time. But for a small and significant portion of the population, it can be dangerous and ruin their lives. As a former casino dealer, I know firsthand the psychological and financial harm that can occur when a person is addicted to gambling.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an uncertain event with intent to win something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted (DSM-III, 1984). It can involve everything from buying a lottery ticket to betting large sums of money in casinos. In addition, many workplaces organize “betting pools” for various events such as the Super Bowl or reality TV shows in which several people contribute money and the winning team receives the pooled funds.

Compared with people who did not gamble regularly, those who gambled at age 17 years and again at age 20 or 24 years were more likely to be male, have conduct problems and hyperactivity, have higher sensation seeking scores, and be unemployed or not in education. A substantial amount of data was lost to follow-up, and detailed trajectory analyses were not possible without biases and loss of power (supplementary information available upon request).

A person’s vulnerability to developing a gambling disorder increases with the frequency and intensity of their gambling activities, the duration of the gambling behavior, and the degree to which it affects their daily functioning and environment. Those who have a gambling disorder are at high risk for serious social, family, and legal consequences. Anyone who is concerned that they may have a gambling problem should seek a formal evaluation with a clinical professional.