The Harms of Gambling


Gambling is a game of chance or skill in which you stake something of value (such as money, or a ticket to a lottery or scratchcard) on a random event with the hope of winning a prize. It is a risky activity and can be addictive.

The term gambling is derived from the Greek word “gamble” which means to risk, and is typically associated with activities that take place in casinos, racetracks, or other commercial establishments. It includes bingo, lotteries, scratch cards and other forms of wagering on a single event or series of events.

A range of different reasons can be given for engaging in gambling, including to alleviate stress, socialize or to take your mind off things. However, it is important to understand that gambling can be addictive and can have a serious impact on your life.

There are a number of harms that can result from gambling, which you may be able to identify if you’re a friend or family member who is gambling. These can include financial problems, relationship issues, and a feeling of loss of control over your life.

General Harms

The first group of general harms was identified through the identification of instances of a person who gambled having to restrict their spending habits or spend less discretionary income on non-gambling goods and services in order to meet short term cash flow needs. These included the reduction of a person’s ability to purchase items beyond necessities such as holidays or electronic equipment.

Another group of harms related to the erosion of savings and financial resources, where the person who gambled would rely on their income for a variety of other goods and services and where this loss was accompanied by an increase in debt levels. This could be a deliberate decision to restrict spending in order to reduce the financial pressure on the person who gambled, or it could be an automatic process of behaviour whereby a person who gambles would use their income to cover debt costs.

Thirdly, there were a number of instances where a person who gambled was unable to afford essential household expenses such as food or rent and these would have an adverse effect on the person who gambled and affected others in their relationships. These were often reported by the person who gambled as being a “threshold” whereby they could no longer cope with the situation and sought assistance in order to meet their needs.

Fourthly, there were a number of cases where an affected other was unable to support a person who gambled as they had been forced to become a carer for the person who gambled. These included the children of a person who gambled who were required to assume the role of parent in terms of financial management tasks and the provision of food and other necessities, and where adults who had experienced the harm of gambling returned home from work and restructured their relationships to one where they took on this role.