Just the Facts: Gambling Addiction

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Gambling Addiction

What is problem gambling?

Gambling can be defined as any activity (e.g. a game of chance or skill) where an item of value is placed at risk in an attempt to gain something of greater value.

The term problem gambling has been used in different ways by the research community, ranging from individuals who fall short of the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling to persons whose gambling behavior compromises, disrupts, or damages personal, family or vocational pursuits. According to National Council on Problem Gambling, this term is also used as a more inclusive category that encompasses a continuum of gambling difficulties, with pathological gambling at one end of the spectrum. A problem gambler dedicates more time, thought and money towards gambling.

Pathological gambling is a progressive disorder in which an individual has a psychologically uncontrollable preoccupation with an urge to gamble, resulting in damage to vocational, family and social interests. It is characterized by a chronic and progressive inability to resist the impulse to gamble. It was first diagnosed and recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 and published in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-IV).

To be diagnosed as a pathological gambler, an individual must meet at least five out of ten diagnostic criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association:

  • thinks constantly about gambling
  • increases bets to sustain thrill
  • exhibits agitation when cutting back
  • gambles as an escape
  • chases losses
  • lies to conceal activity
  • finances bets through illegal acts
  • jeopardizes significant relationships
  • relies on financial bailout
  • fails in effort to control or stop

Source: New York Council on Problem Gambling

Some Facts About Adolescents & Gambling

Myth: Adolescents cannot develop gambling problems.


Approximately 4-6% of high school students are addicted to gambling, and another 10-14% are at risk of developing an addiction, which means that they already show signs of losing control over their gambling behaviour. Recent studies in Quebec show that approximately 2% of high school students are addicted to gambling, while approximately 1% of the adult population experiences gambling problems.


Myth: Gambling activities are inoffensive and harmless.


While the vast majority of players will gamble only on occasion and just for fun, others will gamble excessively and develop serious problems. Those players become preoccupied with gambling activities, become over-involved, neglecting their responsibilities and other activities, which can lead to various other problems.

Myth: A good video game player will be a good video lottery terminal (VLT) player.


A video game requires skills; the more you play the better you become. A VLT machine, just like any other game of chance, does not require skill. The results are completely random and you cannot influence the outcome of a VLT game.

Myth: Knowing the rules of a game such as poker can increase your chances of winning.


Knowing the rules of a game such as poker can help you to a certain extent, but the odds are always against you. Plus, you have no control over how the cards are being dealt.


Myth: It does not matter if you lose; eventually, if you keep gambling, you will win your money back.


Over time, you will lose more and more money, even if you do win occasionally.

Myth: When playing the lottery, a roulette wheel, dice or a VLT game, keeping track of previous results can help you figure out the coming results.


The nature of these games, and of probability, is such that every event is independent of the previous one. For example, each roll of the dice is an entirely new and random event that has nothing to do with previous rolls, nor will it influence future ones.

Source: Youth Gambling.org