Gambling is betting something of value (often money) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance or accident. It involves taking a risk in the hope of gain and is therefore different from insurance, which is based on actuarial techniques to shift financial risks to others (although some sports bets may be considered gambling as well; see sports wagering).

Many people gamble for a variety of reasons: for entertainment or social benefits, to change their mood, for an adrenaline rush, to dream about a jackpot win, to challenge their skills, or to meet other people who share the same interest. A key reason that gambling can become problematic is because it triggers a reward system in the brain. This means that the more a person loses, the more they want to win and this is why gambling can be addictive.

Research indicates that some people have genetic predispositions to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsiveness, and these traits can contribute to a gambling addiction. In addition, some communities consider gambling a legitimate pastime and this can make it difficult to recognize a problem.

To overcome a gambling addiction, a person must decide to stop and then take action. They can use support groups, attend meetings with a counselor, and start to establish new healthy relationships and hobbies. In extreme cases, they can also get residential or inpatient treatment and recovery programs. Lastly, they should try to avoid thinking of ways to compensate for losses (chasing) and learn to limit their spending.