Gambling involves risking something of value for the chance of winning something else of value. It may involve skill as well, such as a game of basketball where players try to shoot baskets into the net. When people win, they get a dopamine response in their brain. This is useful because it helps them learn from the positive experience, trying to replicate it in future attempts. But when a person develops a gambling problem, they lose control of the behavior. They start to gamble for more than the entertainment value. They might want to profit, or escape from their everyday problems and stresses. Ultimately, they might end up getting into financial trouble and even attempting suicide.

Gambling has impacts at three levels – personal, interpersonal and societal/community (Fig. 1). Personal impacts affect the gamblers themselves and are invisible to others. Interpersonal impacts occur at a personal level and influence gamblers’ relationships with their family members and friends. At a societal/community level, external impacts are visible and concern other people who do not gamble. They include general costs, costs of problem gambling and long-term costs.

When a person becomes addicted to gambling, they stop thinking about the fun factor and instead focus on escaping from their stressful reality by gambling. They might also start to hide their behavior and lie about their activities. They might even think that they are doing nothing wrong because they’re not putting their money on the line, but this is not true. People who have a gambling addiction can’t just stop playing, and they often don’t know why they’re doing it.