Gambling Harm

Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the hope of winning and gaining something of value. It can be done for money, or other materials such as marbles or collectible cards. In some forms, such as lottery and organized football pools, the stakes are legally authorized and regulated. It can be a fun and enjoyable pastime for some, but it can also lead to serious problems for others.

In fact, problem gambling is one of the leading public health issues in the UK. It can negatively impact people’s physical and mental health, relationships with family and friends, work or study performance, and leave them in serious debt. It can even result in suicide.

It’s important to know the difference between an addiction and a gambling problem, so you can get help before it is too late. Gambling addiction can be treated using the same techniques as other addictions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps you to challenge your irrational beliefs about gambling, such as the belief that certain rituals will bring you luck or the idea that you are more likely to win after a streak of losses.

You can get support and advice from a range of organisations including the Mood and Anxiety Trust, the Samaritans, the National Council for the Self-employed and the Gambling Commission. You can also find support online from organisations such as GamCare, the Gambling Therapy Forum and Gamblers Anonymous. If you are in financial difficulty, contact StepChange for free, confidential debt advice.

There is no single, accepted definition of gambling harm but it is generally agreed that:

Gambling harm includes the following:

It also encompasses the consequences of an individual’s participation in gambling and can extend to their close family and other significant individuals such as work colleagues, neighbours, friends and community. It can also include the wider social effects such as increased crime, homelessness and poverty.

The definition of harm in this document was developed by a working group comprising representatives from treatment providers, policy makers and researchers. The aim was to create a dialogue that will lead to a more coherent interpretation of gambling harm across treatment providers, policy makers and researchers. In addition, the definition was designed to ensure that it is relevant and useful to individuals who are affected by their own or other people’s gambling. This meant that the emphasis was on a person-centred approach, incorporating an understanding of harm to a person’s life and well-being. It also recognised the fact that it is a complex issue and that prohibition of gambling does not prevent people from experiencing harm.