Gambling is the act of risking something of value (a stake) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the hope of winning a prize. The stake is usually money, but it could also be anything else of value, including collectibles such as marbles or trading cards. The most common form of gambling is betting on sporting events, but it can also include card games or board games that involve a fixed amount of money, such as poker, and even the purchase of lottery tickets or keno slips.

There is a broad range of negative impacts associated with gambling, which may impact individuals and communities, and these impacts are often greater and more severe when gambling is undertaken more frequently or when larger amounts of money are involved. While there is a strong consensus that harm is associated with gambling, the terminology used around gambling and public health policy often conflates the outcome (harm) with the behaviour (gambling), leading to confusion and a lack of understanding of how to address gambling related harms from a public health perspective.

Problem gambling is often accompanied by other harmful activities, such as drug and alcohol abuse, which can also lead to depression and anxiety. When these mood disorders are present, it is more difficult to stop gambling and can cause serious problems for individuals and families.

If someone is struggling with an addiction to gambling, there are many things they can do to get help. They can see a doctor for depression and anxiety, make an effort to strengthen their support network, and seek financial help from family and friends. They can also try cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which can address the beliefs they have about gambling, such as that certain rituals will bring them luck and that they can win back their losses by gambling more.

Another way to get help is to attend a peer support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition, they can talk to a counsellor, and set boundaries around how much money they can spend on gambling, for example by getting rid of credit cards or having someone in the family manage their finances.

If you are struggling with gambling addiction, or if you are caring for a loved one who is, please don’t hesitate to contact us for free, confidential help and advice. We are here 24/7.