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Games of chance can lead to serious problems and difficulties for a growing number of people. In Germany, about half of all adults play at least once a year. Of the 16- and 17-year-olds, one out of every four gambled in the last 12 months. About 350,000 people in Germany show a gambling behaviour that leads to financial, social and health problems. About 250,000 players are diagnosed as pathological players who have loss of control on their gambling behaviour. Gambling can lead to high losses of money and can affect the whole life of a person or even destroy it.
Not all people who are gambling are affected by a problematic gambling behaviour or addiction. Psychological and social problems caused by gambling often develop gradually and over several years.
A problematic gambling behaviour is regarded as a precursor to pathological gambling. Whereas gambling is already associated with negative consequences, however, the player can still control his behaviour (bets, time expenditure). In case of loss of control, problematic gambling is regarded as pathological gambling.
People with problematic gambling behaviour are found in all age and income groups, cultures and professions. Some people develop a problematic gambling behaviour very quickly; in others, this process can take several years.