Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or assets) in the hope of winning a prize. It can happen in casinos, racetracks, at sporting events and on the internet. Gambling can be fun, but it can also be harmful. It is important to understand the risks and how gambling affects you, especially if it is causing problems in your life.

Biologically, humans are programmed to seek rewards. When we spend time with a friend, eat a meal or win money, our brains release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Problematic gamblers can develop an addiction to this reward, leading to dangerous habits that can have a severe impact on their lives.

There are a variety of factors that can provoke problematic gambling, including a person’s personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions. People who have a predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsivity are more likely to develop an issue with gambling. Genetics can play a role as well, with studies showing that certain brain regions may be over-active or under-active for some individuals.

Gambling can have positive and negative impacts at the individual, interpersonal, and community/society levels. Financial impacts include changes to an individual’s financial situation, such as debt and loss of income. Labor impacts include work performance issues, absenteeism, and job losses. Social and community/society level impacts can be long-term and create a change in an individual’s life course and pass between generations. These impacts can be hard to measure, due to a number of methodological challenges.