Whether betting on a football game or buying a Lotto ticket, gambling is an activity that involves the risk of losing money and an opportunity to win more. It has been a popular activity for centuries and has been suppressed by law in many areas. Today, gambling has become a major industry and is one of the most lucrative activities in the world. But how exactly does it work? And what are the risks involved in gambling?
Gambling involves placing a bet on an event that is purely random. This could be a sports game, a lottery or even a scratchcard. The bettor chooses what to bet on and then matches this choice to the ‘odds’ set by the betting company. The odds are a measure of the probability of an event occurring and help to determine how much the winner will receive.
The most common form of gambling is social, where people bet with friends or colleagues for small amounts of money. This could be a card game or board game with a few beers, or buying a lottery ticket with coworkers. Although skill can improve the odds of winning, gambling is essentially a game of chance.
In addition to the above, a person who gambles may exhibit other signs of a problem such as: a preoccupation with gambling; a feeling that they must increase wager sizes to maintain excitement levels; unsuccessful efforts to control their gambling; and attempts to conceal their behavior (APA, 1994). It is important to note that the term disordered gambling does not refer to a specific diagnostic entity but to a range of behaviors from those which put individuals at risk for developing more serious problems (subclinical) to those which meet the criteria for pathological gambling in the DSM-IV (Petry, 2005).
A longitudinal study involves tracking an individual over time. This type of study is useful for identifying factors that moderate and exacerbate an individual’s gambling participation. It also allows researchers to infer causality by comparing a person’s early and later gambling involvement. Although longitudinal studies are the gold standard for most types of research, there are a number of practical and logistical barriers to their implementation in gambling studies.
These include the huge financial commitment required for a multiyear study; challenges in maintaining research team continuity over long periods of time; and problems with sample attrition and repeated testing over a lengthy period. However, these obstacles are being overcome, and longitudinal research in gambling is becoming more commonplace and sophisticated. This type of research has the potential to produce large and valuable databases for future use. This will help to identify and develop effective treatment options for gambling disorders. The use of longitudinal data in gambling research will also help to address the need for more accurate and detailed population-based assessments of the impact of legalized gambling. These data are needed to inform public policy and provide a foundation for prevention and intervention efforts.