Gambling is a wide range of activities where a person risks something of value, such as money, on an outcome that involves chance. This can be anything from betting on a sporting event to playing scratch cards or fruit machines.
Whether gambling is legal or not, it can be addictive and cause harm. If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, seek support from a counsellor.
The main forms of gambling are sports betting, poker and lottery. Some other types of gambling include casino games and online gambling.
In the United States, about four in five people say they gamble at least once a year. However, for as many as 20 million citizens, the habit interferes with their work and family life.
Although there is a lot of public health discussion about gambling, the definition of harm associated with gambling remains ambiguous. This ambiguity makes it difficult for treatment providers, policy makers and researchers to conceptualise gambling related harm.
A functional definition of harm based on the outcomes of harmful behaviour is an important step towards creating a coherent understanding of gambling related harm across treatment services, research and policy making. It provides a basis for developing a taxonomy of harms that can be measured using standard epidemiological protocols.
Harm is an outcome of harmful behaviour that is experienced by the person who gambles, their affected others and the broader community. It can include physical, psychological, social or financial harms.
Several different harms can be experienced as a consequence of gambling including: emotional and psychological distress, relationship distortion, financial harms and harm to the environment. The impact of all these harms is varied and depends on the type and behavioural level of gambling.
Relationship distortion was the most common form of harm reported by both the person who gambled and their affected others. It involved a range of issues, including trust and time that could lead to relationship disruption or conflict. Other factors that could lead to relationship harm included the perception of gambling as a deviant or unacceptable behaviour and stigma associated with gambling.
A further area of concern was the potential for a child to assume a parent role when a parent engages in harmful gambling. This could be particularly problematic in children and young adults who were already experiencing a wide range of developmental and psychosocial problems or with a history of substance abuse.
This can lead to significant problems for the child in terms of socialising, schooling and relationships. Additionally, it can place an additional strain on the finances of the parents.
Depending on the form of gambling, the effects can be long-term or short-term. In the case of the former, it can lead to severe social and financial difficulties for the person who gambles and their family.
To ensure the safety and well-being of children, there are a number of things that can be done to prevent gambling-related harms from happening in the first place. One way to do this is to set some boundaries for yourself, such as not spending more than you can comfortably afford or only putting a certain amount of money into the game. You also need to make sure you know the rules and how much you can win.