Gambling involves placing something of value (money or material goods) on an event whose outcome is uncertain. It is estimated that the total amount of money legally wagered on gambling events worldwide is around $10 trillion, with a large share of this wagering being placed on sports. This is a significant sum, even by the standards of the global economy.

The act of gambling has a variety of negative financial, emotional and social consequences for gamblers and their families. It is important to understand how gambling harms can be prevented and the warning signs of problem gambling.

Some people gamble for social reasons: because it is part of a group activity, to get an adrenaline rush, or to think about what they might do with the winnings. Others may gamble to relieve unpleasant feelings or boredom, such as loneliness or sadness, or to escape from the pressures of everyday life by becoming absorbed in a game. It is also common for people with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, to develop a gambling habit.

People who have a gambling problem often secretive about their behaviour, lying to family and friends about how much they are betting or hiding debts to avoid confronting them. They also tend to have poor impulse control, which is often associated with a tendency to seek sensation and novelty and the inability to inhibit or delay gratification. The desire to experience a rush or ‘high’ and a lack of understanding of the odds and probability of winning are other contributing factors.