A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, with an intention to win a prize. This does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, such as those involving securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.

Social gambling can take the form of playing card games for small amounts of money with friends, taking part in a friendly sports betting pool or buying lottery tickets. It may be seen as a fun activity, but it can also cause serious problems and even lead to debt.

For people who are struggling with gambling addiction, therapy can help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be particularly effective in changing negative beliefs around gambling. These can include believing that if you’ve had more wins than losses in the past, you are more likely to win again, or that certain rituals will bring you luck. The reality is, the chances of winning or losing remain the same no matter how many times you press the button on a slot machine or roll the dice.

Pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that can be treated the same as other conditions such as kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). If you’re worried about your gambling habits and would like to seek help, StepChange’s free and confidential debt advice service can help.