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Gambling is the staking of something of value (money, objects or services) with conscious risk and hope of gain on the outcome of an uncertain event. This includes games of chance like slot machines and roulette as well as sports betting and buying lottery tickets. It also involves social gambling, such as playing card or board games for small amounts of money with friends or taking part in a workplace or school football pool. Professional gamblers may also be considered a form of gambling, although they usually have a deep understanding of the game or games they play and use strategy and skill to win over the long term.

A few years ago, it would have been controversial to say that a person could become addicted to gambling in the same way as they can get hooked on drugs. But that view, which reflects new insights into the biology of addiction, is now widely accepted by experts.

The betting industry promotes its wares through TV adverts, social media and wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs. But unlike Coca-Cola, which promotes its product in the knowledge that most people will already know how it tastes, gambling firms are trying to convince punters that they have a realistic chance of winning, however slim.

For problem gamblers, that’s often not enough. Losing triggers the rewarding release of dopamine almost as much as winning does. And because losing is more common than winning, it’s harder to walk away from the table or screen. This is called chasing losses and, for many people, is the root of their addiction.

But it is possible to break the cycle of gambling. Some of the most effective treatments for addiction to gambling are cognitive-behavior therapies, which help people confront irrational beliefs – like the belief that a series of near misses, such as two out of three cherries on a slot machine, signals an imminent jackpot.

In addition to therapy, some of the most effective ways of breaking a gambling addiction include changing your environment, seeking support and avoiding triggers. And while it’s not easy, it’s possible to regain control of your finances and overcome an addiction to gambling, so that you can live your life to the fullest.

If you’re concerned about a loved one, learn more about gambling addiction and the resources available to help them get the help they need.

Gambling can be a lot of fun, but it can also lead to serious financial problems and even bankruptcy. If you have a friend or family member who has a gambling addiction, take action and get them the help they need today.

This article is brought to you by Vigeo Eiris, a leading global risk consultancy. We analyse 15 controversial activities that could potentially cause harm to society and help governments and companies make better decisions. This month we are focusing on gambling, including how it affects the brain and why it’s so hard to stop.