Gambling and Harm


Gambling is an activity in which a person places something of value (usually money) on the outcome of an uncertain event. The act of gambling can occur in a wide range of settings, from buying lottery tickets to placing bets on horse races or sports events, using the pokies, or playing casino games such as blackjack or poker. People can also gamble through social activities such as card games and bingo. In most cases, the objective of gambling is to win a prize. The amount of money a person is willing to put at risk determines the type of gambling activity in which they engage.

In addition to monetary harm, there are other significant harms related to gambling, including family, career, and social relationships, as well as emotional distress and substance use problems. It is not surprising that people who experience gambling-related harm want to stop their behaviour. However, it is important to note that stopping gambling can be a difficult task and the consequences of past behaviour can persist even after the person has stopped. These consequences are called legacy harms, and they are distinct from the harms experienced while a person is engaging in gambling behaviour.

Research on gambling and harm has often focused on two broad categories – problem gamblers and those who do not meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling (PG). While these are useful measures, they fail to capture the range of negative impacts that result from participation in gambling. In contrast, the recent work of Abbott et al [11] has used a conceptual framework to explore the range and breadth of harms associated with gambling behaviour. This framework, which is based on public health theory and the social model of health, separates harmful gambling from problem gambler status and recognises harm experiences at three levels – the person who gambles, their wider family and community and the broader society.

The first step in reducing or eliminating harms related to gambling is to understand what causes them. This can be achieved through the use of various techniques, such as behavioural therapy and support services. These can help a person to identify their underlying problems, such as anxiety or depression, and learn new skills to cope with them.

Another important step is to establish realistic expectations about gambling. This can be accomplished by educating people about how gambling works, including the probability of losing money. It is also important to encourage people to budget for losses and consider the financial implications of their decisions before they make them.

It is also essential to take steps to prevent gambling related harms, such as limiting access to credit cards, setting up automatic payments for gambling, and closing online betting accounts. Finally, it is important to address the underlying issues that have contributed to the person’s gambling behavior, such as marital and family difficulties or debt. A comprehensive approach to addressing harms related to gambling should include the above-mentioned strategies, as well as counselling and treatment programs.

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