Gambling is any activity where people stake money or something else of value on a chance event, with the hope of winning a prize. This can be done at a casino, in a sports betting pool, or through the lottery.
Often people gamble for fun or to try and win cash prizes, but there are also some forms of gambling that can be harmful. For example, if someone has a gambling problem they may become addicted to spending money and lose control of their finances and other areas of their life.
Harms from gambling can have a range of impacts on the person who gambles, their affected others, and the broader community. They can be emotional and psychological, social, financial and legal, and affect relationships.
The harms a person experiences from gambling can range from the immediate effects of their engagement with it, to a longer-term impact that can be exacerbated by other comorbidities such as alcohol abuse or depression. However, the concept of harm is highly subjective and can be difficult to pin down.
In the early data, many harms were reported at various levels of intensity. There was a general recognition of the experience of harm from a person’s first engagement with gambling and this extended to a temporal point of significance.
For the person who gambles, this could include distorted cognitions and erroneous beliefs about the probability of their behaviours and the consequences from that gambling. It could be accompanied by feelings of powerlessness and desperation in trying to control or recoup losses.
Affected others might experience loss of trust in the person who gambles and this could be a strong source of conflict and breakdown of their relationship. It could also be a symptom of a deeper issue such as an unresolved trauma or a history of psychiatric illness.
These types of relationships could be disrupted by the person who gambles and it was reported that these disruptions could occur across different levels, including at home, in school or at work. These disruptions were often referred to as ‘disordered’ relationships and had been associated with other addictive behaviours, particularly alcohol and drug use.
The disruption to these relationships could be significant in terms of the resulting harms for the affected others, who may have experienced relationship distress and the potential to lose contact with other people in their lives. The impact of these impacts could be significant for their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the broader community, as they could negatively impact on their ability to function within the wider society and their sense of belonging.
Other impacts of the gambling that were more persistent in nature, and related to a person’s mental health and wellbeing, were also frequently reported. They included a range of issues such as relationship distortion, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, and the inability to cope with the demands of daily life.
The underlying causes of these harms can be complex and can be influenced by factors such as where you live, your age, social background, coping styles, social learning and beliefs. These factors can influence the way you interact with others and how you view yourself, and can influence whether or not you engage in harmful gambling behaviours.