Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance and the intent to win a prize. It can include all types of bets, including sports, games of chance, and lottery or scratch-off tickets. The activity can be illegal in some areas, depending on state and local laws.

In the United States, it is regulated by federal and state laws. Pathological gambling (PG) is a type of problem that affects an estimated 0.4% to 1.6% of the population. PG usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood and develops into a problem several years later. It most often occurs in strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as poker and blackjack, and is less common in nonstrategic and/or remote forms, such as slot machines and bingo.

Research shows that there are a number of factors that may influence the onset, development, and maintenance of normal and problematic gambling behavior. These include biological predispositions, such as an underactive brain reward system; personality traits, such as impulsivity and risk-taking; and environmental influences, such as the availability of gambling opportunities.

Problem gamblers tend to have a lower tolerance for loss than those who don’t gamble. They also often have trouble recognizing when gambling has become a problem. This makes it hard to know when to seek help. A common reaction is to hide the problem or lie about it. Some individuals may even try to compensate for the loss by spending more money or time gambling.