Gambling is a form of risk-taking in which people wager something of value (such as money or property) on an event whose outcome is uncertain. It may be done on a game of chance, such as in the case of scratchcards and fruit machines, or on events outside one’s control, such as in the case of racing or sports betting. People can also gamble on games of skill, such as poker, that involve making decisions based on probability.
Gambling has long been linked with harm and is a significant issue for many people in society. However, the definition of harm has been unclear and inconsistent across the gambling research literature. This is likely to be partly due to the fact that there are many disciplines interested in gambling and the varying perspectives, approaches and understandings of harm associated with this activity.
The aim of this article is to create a common understanding of the term ‘harms associated with gambling’ and to identify a more consistent interpretation of this concept. Specifically, it focuses on the need for a definition that is grounded in a public health approach to allow for future measurement of gambling harms and takes into account comorbidities.
This involves taking into consideration the impact of a person’s gambling behaviour on their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as on other areas of their life, such as finances and interpersonal relationships. Often, problems associated with gambling are exacerbated by other factors in a person’s life, such as mental illness or substance abuse.
In addition, harms are experienced by those who care for or support people who have a problem with gambling. These are known as affected others and have been identified as a key area for intervention. The definition of harms also includes legacy harms, which are those that persist after the engagement with gambling has ended.
A key finding from the data gathered for this study was the evidence that there is a need to develop a more comprehensive and inclusive international definition of gambling harm. This is important because the current landscape for gambling policy and research relies on inadequate proxy measures of harm and a narrow interpretation of the concept. In addition, there is a need to develop more effective interventions that recognise the complex nature of gambling related harms. This is essential because, if left untreated, gambling problems can escalate into a financial crisis and lead to thoughts of suicide. If you are worried about your own or someone else’s gambling, get in touch with StepChange for free debt advice. They can help you make a plan to get back on track. For more information about how to stop gambling, visit the Stop Gambling website. They offer a free and confidential service for anyone in the UK who is worried about their gambling. They can also provide you with details of local support services and self-help groups.