What is Gambling?

Gambling is happening when you are spending time and money ‘taking a risk’ on an event with an uncertain outcome. Items of value, like money, cars, holidays, are given out according to the outcome of the event.

Outcomes include which horse or dog comes first, which symbols are displayed on a pokie machine after you press a button, or which numbers come up in a lottery.

The risk is that you don’t know what the outcome will be before you use your or someone else’s money to gamble. You might win, you might lose. But remember that gambling is designed for the organiser to make a profit, in the long run the people gambling lose.

Types of gambling include (but are not limited to):

  • Pokie machines
  • Casino table games like blackjack or roulette
  • Horse and dog racing
  • Internet casinos and betting
  • Sports betting
  • Card games
  • Lotto or scratch tickets
  • Bingo or housie
  • Raffle tickets

Types of Gamblers

Research has identified 6 main types of gamblers.  (Custer, R.L. and Milt, H. (1985). When Luck Runs Out. New York: Warner Books.)

  1. Professional gamblers make their living by gambling and thus consider it a profession. They are skilled in the games they choose to play and are able to control both the amount of money and time spent gambling. Thus, professional gamblers are not addicted to gambling. They patiently wait for the best bet and then try to win as much as they can.
  2. In contrast to professional gamblers, antisocial or personality gamblers use gambling as a way to get money by illegal means. They are likely to be involved in fixing horse or dog races, or playing with loaded dice or marked cards. They may attempt to use a compulsive gambling diagnosis as a legal defense. 
  3. Casual social gamblers gamble for recreation, sociability and entertainment. For them, gambling may be a distraction or a form of relaxation. Gambling does not interfere with family, social or vocational obligations. Examples of such betting are the occasional poker game, Super Bowl bets, a yearly trip to Las Vegas and casual involvement in the lottery.
  4. In contrast, serious social gamblers invest more of their time in gambling. Gambling is a major source of relaxation and entertainment, yet these individuals place gambling second in importance to family and vocation. This type of gambler could be compared to a "golf nut," whose source of relaxation comes from playing golf. Serious social gamblers still maintain control over their gambling activities.
  5. Custer's fifth type, relief and escape gamblers, gamble to find relief from feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, boredom or loneliness. They use gambling to escape from crisis or difficulties. Gambling provides an analgesic effect rather than a euphoric response. Relief and escape gamblers are not compulsive gamblers. They are identical to relief and escape drinkers.
  6. Compulsive gamblers have lost control over their gambling. For them, gambling is the most important thing in their lives. Compulsive gambling is a progressive addiction that harms every aspect of the gambler's life. As they continue to gamble, their families, friends and employers are negatively affected. In addition, compulsive gamblers may engage in activities ¬ such as stealing, lying or embezzling ¬ which go against their moral standards. Compulsive gamblers cannot stop gambling, no matter how much they want to or how hard they try.

Compulsive Gambling

New Zealanders have a reputation as some of the world's heaviest gamblers. Gambling, a tradition in New Zealand, has gained strength over the last decade through the rapid growth and expansion of the gambling industry. For many people gambling is an enjoyable recreational activity. For some, it may be once a year on Melbourne Cup Day, but for many, it is a normal part of their week's activity. Those who have serious interest in gambling usually devote a great deal of money and time to it.

Some people find that gambling becomes a serious problem which they are unable to control. This is known as 'compulsive' or 'pathological' gambling. Compulsive gambling is recognised as a mental disorder, and is characterised by a chronic and progressive failure to resist the impulse to gamble.

It involves gambling behaviour that compromises, disrupts or damages personal, family, or vocational pursuits. It is known to increase during times of stress, and can lead to problems such as disrupted family relationships, inattention to work, financial crises and criminal activity in order to obtain money. These problems in turn lead to a further intensification of the gambling behaviour.

Compulsive gamblers often believe that money causes, and at the same time is the solution to all their problems. They make no serious attempt to budget or save money, and are often over-confident, very energetic, easily bored and often "big spenders". There are times when they show signs of personal stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, many compulsive gamblers report boredom/depression or stress as the main reasons for their gambling.