Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. A gambler bets money or other material goods on an outcome that is random, such as the roll of a dice, a spin of a roulette wheel, or the result of a horse race. While it is possible to win in gambling, there are also many instances where the gambler loses. Governments regulate gambling to ensure fairness and prevent exploitation.

People gamble for different reasons. Some are motivated by the prospect of winning money and others enjoy the feeling of euphoria that is associated with the activity. Others may be seeking a break from stressful situations, looking for a change in their mood, or wanting to socialize with friends. Problem gambling affects people of all races, religions and ages. It can happen in small towns and large cities, and it can be found at all educational and income levels.

There are many factors that can influence gambling behaviour, including a person’s genetic predisposition for thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity. Environmental and community factors can also influence how much gambling occurs in a particular area, the type of gambling activity that takes place, and whether or not harmful behaviours develop.

Understanding of the adverse consequences of excessive gambling has undergone a major shift. Historically, individuals who experienced these consequences were viewed as gamblers with problems; today they are considered to have pathological gambling disorders. This change was reflected in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.