Problem gambling in the UK is reported to affect around 590,000 people.
The condition can be treated via a range of approaches, including cognitive behavioural therapy and medication.
Published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, a new study carried out by researchers from Imperial College London has found that gambling addiction activates the same brain pathways as drug and alcohol cravings.
These connections between parts of the brain which control our impulses may be weakened in people with gambling addiction, the authors suggest.
Targeting these brain pathways may lead to future treatments for the condition.
The study offers new insights into the biology of gambling addiction, which remains largely unknown.
Co-author of the study, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, comments: "Gambling addiction can have a devastating effect not just on patients, but also their families. It can result in people losing their job, and leave families and children homeless […] We know the condition may have a genetic component - and that the children of gambling addicts are at higher risk of gambling addiction themselves - but we still don't know the exact parts of the brain involved. This research identifies key brain areas, and opens avenues for targeted treatments that prevent cravings and relapse."