Gambling Harms – An Overview



Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves placing a bet on an event or outcome that is determined by chance alone. This is different to the more familiar ‘odds’ in a football match or buying a scratchcard where the outcome is more predictable.

Harms – an overview

The experience of gambling harm is complex and varied, often causing a wide range of short and long term impacts. These include financial, physical, emotional and cultural harms for the person who gambles, their affected others and broader community.

In addition, gambling is often associated with social stigma and discrimination. Several countries, including the US and Australia, have banned or heavily regulated the behaviour.

This creates a significant barrier to the prevention and treatment of gambling related harms. The lack of a consistent definition, a conceptual framework and appropriate methods for measuring harm are key challenges.

Despite the negative impact of gambling on individuals and their families, there is no specific treatment or support available to assist people with an addiction to gambling. However, there is evidence that some medications may help to manage co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Relationship distortion – a continuum of gambling harms

As the person who gambles experiences distress, their distorted cognitions and erroneous beliefs can lead to feelings of powerlessness, desperation and insecurity as their gambling behaviours escalate towards problematic levels. Similarly, the affected others are often left with feelings of a loss of control or influence over the behaviours of the person who gambles and their impacts, such as financial losses.