Gambling is an activity where people place a bet on something of value with the hope that they will win money. It can be anything from betting on a football game to playing a scratchcard or even buying lottery tickets. Regardless of the type of gambling, it is an act that requires risk and can be addictive.
Understanding harm from gambling
There is a wide range of evidence that suggests that gambling can have harmful consequences for individuals, families and communities. However, there are no internationally agreed upon definitions of harm and the current landscape of gambling research and policy use inadequate proxy measures of harm that contribute to limited understanding of harm from gambling.
Understanding gambling and the harms associated with it is important to help prevent problems from arising in the first place and to ensure that individuals, families and communities are better equipped to address harm when it occurs.
Harm from gambling is any behaviour that has negative consequences for the person who engages in it, their family, friends and community. It may include physical, psychological or social harm.
This is a complex issue as it can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the context in which a person gambles and their ability to control their behaviour. The behaviour can be induced by factors such as the availability of gambling products or the perceived social acceptability of the activity.
Often, gambling is encouraged by social groups in an effort to gain approval or support from others. This is a form of co-dependency and can be exacerbated by other problem behaviours, such as depression or alcohol use.
Gambling can cause harm for any person, at any time. It can also be an activity that leads to financial loss and stress.
In the research, there was a clear distinction between the harms that were experienced by people who gambled and those who affected them. This distinction enabled us to identify the various levels at which gambling related harm occurred – from the individual who gambled through to the affected other and the broader community.
The data identified a number of distinct types of harms that were identified within each of these categories. The first group of harms was based around general financial harms. These included harms relating to credit ratings, debt generation and financial vulnerability. These harms were common to both individuals who engaged in gambling as well as those who had a history of engaging with gambling.
These harms were a key threshold point in seeking assistance and treatment. Those affected by these harms were often unable to afford or access support.
This was also the case in those who had engaged in gambling as a means of managing short term cash flow, such as those who had exhausted their surplus income or resources.
This category of gambling-related harm is often associated with low self-esteem and an overall sense of desperation. It can impact on relationships, and lead to a breakdown or threat of separation between affected persons. Moreover, it can be associated with the development of second order harms such as shame and stigma.