Gambling is the risking of something of value (money, property or personal possessions) on an event that is at least in part determined by chance with the intent to win a prize. It includes games of chance and betting on sporting events, elections and business ventures as well as lottery, instant scratch cards, bingo and speculating. Skill can improve the odds of winning, but the outcome is still ultimately based on chance.

Most people have gambled at one time or another, and some enjoy it more than others. However, some people are addicted to gambling and it can cause significant harm in their lives. It can affect their health, relationships, work and study, lead to serious debt and even homelessness. It can also cause problems for their family and friends. Problem gambling can be very hard to recognise. Many people deny that they have a problem and attempt to hide their gambling. It can also be difficult to get help as there are few effective treatments for gambling addiction.

Despite these risks, people continue to be drawn to gambling for the excitement and rush of winning. Research shows that this feeling is similar to the rush of taking a drug. In fact, neuroscientists have found that when people gamble, they activate the same brain circuits as when they take drugs. This is why it is important to understand the warning signs and symptoms of gambling addiction and seek help as soon as possible.

In the past, the psychiatric community generally viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction. In the 1980s, when updating its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association officially classified it as an impulse-control disorder, along with kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair pulling).

More recently, however, scientists have learned that gambling may be more like a drug than previously thought. Specifically, it can change the way the brain works in certain individuals by altering the activity of certain neurons and changing how much pleasure they feel.

For some people, these changes may be helpful, but for others, they can become problematic and lead to a range of negative consequences, including loss of control over spending, financial problems, and even criminal activity such as fraud or embezzlement. In addition, gambling can be a socially unacceptable behaviour that can impact the reputation and self-esteem of the person involved. It can also be a very addictive activity that leads to a variety of health and social problems, including depression, drug abuse, and alcoholism. It can even lead to suicide in some cases.