Gambling is an activity in which a person bets something of value (typically money) on an event with an element of chance and a potential payout. It can be a social activity, as in casino gambling, or a solo endeavor, such as online poker or blackjack. Gambling can also be a skill-based activity, as in stock market betting and sports wagering. Other examples of gambling are lotteries, keno, bingo, racetracks, animal tracks, video lottery terminals (VLTs), and scratch-off tickets.
Many people gamble as a way to socialize with friends or family, and it is not uncommon for gamblers to attend gambling venues together or to pool resources and purchase lottery tickets. Some people may be able to break this habit by finding healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions or boredom, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, or practicing relaxation techniques.
A small percentage of people who engage in gambling develop a pathological gambling disorder, which can lead to severe and lasting problems with family relationships, work, and self-esteem. This disorder appears to be more prevalent among men than women, and it tends to develop in adolescence or early adulthood. People with lower incomes are more susceptible to developing this disorder because they have more to lose than those with higher incomes.
Longitudinal studies of the impact of gambling are rare because of a number of obstacles, such as the huge costs involved in conducting longitudinal research; logistical barriers, such as maintaining research team continuity over a lengthy period of time; and sample attrition. Nonetheless, such research is important because it can help to identify the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the development and maintenance of pathological gambling.