Gambling involves placing a wager on an unpredictable outcome, such as the roll of a dice or the outcome of a horse race. It can also involve betting on a game of chance, such as poker, blackjack, or pogs (collectible trading cards). The most common form of gambling involves real money and is conducted in a casino setting. Other forms of gambling use materials that have a monetary value, but are not actual cash—for example, marbles or Magic: The Gathering cards. Friends and family sometimes place bets on sports events or horse races using these materials, and these wagers are often informal and meant for social interaction and friendly competition.

Gambling is a popular pastime and provides an opportunity for people to engage in social activities in a fun, exciting environment. It can also help to relieve boredom or stress. However, there are healthier and more effective ways to self-soothe unpleasant emotions or unwind, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, participating in a hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques.

While gambling can have many benefits, it can also have a negative impact on personal and community wellbeing. Research into gambling impacts is limited and is hampered by difficulties in assessing costs and benefits across different settings and time periods. These include personal level impacts, such as debt and loss of income, which can have serious consequences for the gambler; interpersonal impacts, such as distress to family members; and community/society level impacts, such as declines in social capital and quality of life.