Gambling occurs when you stake something of value – including your money – on the chance of winning a prize. It can happen in casinos, on scratchcards and fruit machines, at sports events or online. Some people gamble for fun, others do it to escape from negative mental states like depression or anger. For some, it can become an addictive behaviour and lead to debt problems.
Problem gambling has a range of harmful effects on individuals, their families and the wider community. The harms can include financial, emotional, family and health consequences. They can also affect a person’s quality of life and lead to a variety of legal problems.
The causes of gambling-related harm are complex and interlinked. They can be influenced by a combination of factors including age, gender, and the influence of family or friends. People who have other mental health or substance use issues are at greater risk of gambling problems.
It is important to understand the risks of gambling so you can take steps to protect yourself. This includes understanding how gambling works and the key principles of responsible gambling.
You can reduce your gambling risk by limiting the amount of money you are willing to lose and only betting with funds that you can afford to lose. You should also only gamble in a location where you feel comfortable. This is to help prevent the temptation to gamble in places where it could lead to more harm, such as an area of high crime.
In addition, it is helpful to limit the time you spend gambling and try to stop when you are feeling the urge. If you need help with your gambling, speak to a trusted friend or family member, seek professional counselling, or join a self-help support group for gambling addicts such as Gamblers Anonymous.
Many people with a gambling disorder find it difficult to control their behaviour, even when it leads to serious problems. They may feel the need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to experience the same level of excitement. This behaviour can have a significant impact on a person’s daily lives, including their relationships with family and friends, work and social activities.
A key issue in the gambling literature is that it tends to conflate harm with the result of problematic behaviour – for example, the negative consequences of gambling. This has been highlighted by Neal et al  and Currie et al . A similar confusion exists in public health approaches to problem gambling which often focus on screening or diagnosis of a gambling disorder, rather than the measurement of the harmful outcomes of gambling. Nevertheless, there are signs that the literature is converging towards a more consistent interpretation of gambling harm, which is defined as a set of negative impacts resulting from gambling. This is an important step, as it will allow for better prevention and treatment of problem gambling. It will also enable a more robust comparison of different interventions to reduce the harm associated with gambling.