Gambling and Its Effects on the Brain


The prevalence of online and land-based casinos has made gambling more popular and accessible than ever. In fact, four out of five Americans have gambled at some point in their lives. Almost every state has some form of legalized gambling, and people can play casino games from home with a computer and a phone. However, many people have trouble controlling their gambling habits. Around two million people in the United States are addicted to gambling, and as many as 20 million have problems related to gambling.

Gambling can take many forms. In the most basic sense, gambling is the risk of losing money or something of value, with the intent to win money, material goods, or status. While many people play for fun or for entertainment, gambling often involves a level of risk, consideration, and prize. Gambling can take many forms, from buying lottery tickets to playing cards or dice for money. Even office pools can be a form of gambling. While the majority of people associate gambling with casinos, this is not necessarily the case.

In order to prevent a person from gambling, the first step is to strengthen the support network of their friends and family. This is a vitally important step because gambling cannot happen without money. To make this easier, eliminate credit cards and let a trusted friend or family member manage their money. Another way to avoid the temptation to gamble is to join a peer support group. In fact, a group called Gamblers Anonymous exists specifically for those with gambling problems. This program is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Participants must have a sponsor, a former gambler who can provide support and guidance.

Gambling is an immensely popular international activity. In 2009, the legal gambling industry worldwide was worth $335 billion. The most popular forms of gambling include lottery games, poker, and sports betting. In some countries, the games are conducted with materials that have value. For example, a person playing marbles might stake marbles in a bet with a friend. Similarly, a player of the card game Magic: The Gathering can stake collectible pieces of the game, resulting in a meta-game about a player’s collection.

Interestingly, the two conditions have similar effects on the brain. Both drugs and gambling alter the circuitry responsible for reward-seeking and impulse-control. In fact, neuroscientists have found that a person with Parkinson’s disease may also be more prone to gambling problems than someone with an unrelated disease. The APA said that the research findings suggest that the two disorders are similar. And in the case of gambling, it would make sense to study the connections between the two.

Teenagers often engage in both regulated and unregulated forms of gambling. In the United States, provincial lotteries, which are overseen by the federal government, are prohibited for underage players. Meanwhile, non-regulated forms of gambling include dice games, sports betting, card games, and social gambling. For example, a young person might engage in both types of gambling, and that’s how these types of activities affect different age groups. This type of gambling can be harmful for the development of an individual.