Gambling is the wagering of something of value, usually money, on an event that is primarily determined by chance and has a significant potential for loss. It is a common activity, with gambling establishments and activities found in virtually every country in the world. It has been a part of most societies since prerecorded history and is often integrated into local customs and rites of passage. Despite its widespread acceptance, gambling is associated with a variety of negative and positive social and economic consequences. Gambling also has a long history of illegality and is subject to criminal and other corruptive influences. Swindling and cheating on games are not uncommon, and gambling has been a source of much controversy and conflict throughout human history.

Whether they are betting on a football team or buying a scratchcard, people gamble for different reasons. They may do it for the thrill of winning, for the social aspect of gambling, or to make themselves feel better about a bad financial situation. However, they might be at risk of becoming addicted if they have a gambling disorder. These disorders fall into a spectrum that ranges from behavior that puts them at risk for developing a problem (subclinical) to the behaviors that meet the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).

The four main types of disordered gambling are:

1. Compulsive gambling, in which people bet on anything, even non-sports events, just to feel the excitement of a win. They are often secretive about their gambling, lying to family and friends, or even stealing in order to fund their addiction. They often end up in debt and feel compelled to keep gambling, increasing their bets in the hope of recovering their losses.

2. Problem gambling, in which people do everything they can to get money for gambling, including committing illegal acts such as forgery, theft, or fraud. They often have poor self-esteem and depression, and are unable to control their gambling. They are likely to steal from others in order to fund their gambling habit and might jeopardize a job, relationship, or educational opportunities.

3. Problem gambling with a substance, such as drugs or alcohol, in which the person is under the influence of an addictive drug when they gamble. They are likely to show impaired judgment, be unable to stop gambling, and have a low level of impulse control.

4. Dependent gambling, in which the person is dependent on another for money or things that can be used as stakes in a game of chance. This includes a person who is being cared for by a family member, a friend, or a spouse.

The simplest way to avoid gambling addiction is to start with a fixed amount of money you can afford to lose and stick to it. Putting the money in an envelope for each day of gambling helps to reduce the temptation to spend more and makes it easier to walk away when you have lost all your money. It is also a good idea to tip dealers and cocktail waitresses. You can do this by giving them a chip and telling them it is for you or by placing your bet for them.