Gambling involves staking something of value, like money or possessions, on the outcome of a random event in the hope of winning a prize. It may involve a single bet or many bets, from the purchase of lottery tickets to casino gambling. Regardless of the amount staked, gamblers are aware of the risk involved. This awareness distinguishes it from games of chance such as roulette or blackjack that are based purely on luck.

While many people enjoy the excitement of gambling, some become addicted and end up in financial trouble. This is a significant problem and can cause major problems in relationships, careers, and families. People who develop gambling addictions can be helped with treatment programs, which usually include family therapy and credit, career, and finance counseling. Some programs also provide residential or inpatient care.

The understanding of gambling disorders has undergone a profound change, similar to the way we understand alcoholism. People who experience adverse consequences from excessive gambling are now viewed as having psychological problems, not as morally corrupt or weak willed. This shift has been stimulated by new research into the biological basis of addiction, which has prompted psychiatrists to redefine the diagnosis of pathological gambling in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As part of this revision, we have moved from describing the behavior of individuals who gamble as morally deviant to viewing it as a sign of psychiatric illness.