What is gambling?

illustration of dice and playing cards

Gambling describes games and activities that have an unpredictable outcome and that require players to make bets in the hope of winning something of value.

Most gambling games include:

  • A large element of chance (even when there’s some skill involved, like in poker)
  • The opportunity to win or lose something significant (for example, large amounts of money, important possessions, etc.)

Gambling games are popular among young people

Over 42% of students in Grades 7-12 have gambled in the past month. It’s not hard to figure out why – gambling can be a lot of fun.

Here are some other reasons people might gamble:

  • They’re excited by the possibility of winning and/or the risk of losing
  • They enjoy gambling as a social activity they can do with friends
  • They believe (wrongly) that it’s a fast, easy way to make money
  • They’re bored
  • They feel like gambling gives them an escape, or break from regular life

Safer gambling

Most young people who gamble don’t develop problems with gambling. The key to not putting yourself at risk for developing a problem is setting limits around how and when you gamble.

Here are some tips for gambling safely:

  1. Keep in mind that gambling has addictive qualities just like alcohol.
  2. Approach gambling as entertainment, not as an easy way to make money or pay off debts.
  3. Only bet money you can afford to lose.
  4. Understand that the outcome of gambling is a matter of chance; and the odds are never in your favour.
  5. Set limits on your budget and time, and stop when you approach or reach either limit.
  6. Never borrow money to gamble.
  1. Don’t use credit or debit cards to gamble.
  2. Don’t try to win your money back if you are losing.
  3. Don’t gamble when you are depressed, stressed out, or upset – you’re more likely to make decisions you’ll regret.
  4. Never gamble because you feel pressured or because you want to impress someone.
  5. Accept that you are not likely to win large prizes or a lot of money.
  6. Only gamble if you feel you can balance it with other hobbies and interests.

blue arrow to next pageThink you might have a problem, or just want to know more about problem gambling? Find out more on the next page.

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Last Reviewed September 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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