The Definition of Gambling Harm


Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, usually money, on a random event with an intention to win something of a different value. It requires three elements to be present – consideration, risk, and a prize.

There are a number of forms of gambling worldwide, including lotteries, organized football (soccer) pools, and casino games. Some types of gambling are legal, while others are illegal or involve wagering on events that are not sanctioned by the state.

People who gamble can often use it to relieve emotional distress, such as boredom or loneliness, and to socialize with friends. They may also use it to relieve stress or anxiety, especially if they have a hard time controlling their anger and frustration.

While it can be used as a way to self-soothe, gambling can become problematic when it begins to take over the person’s life or becomes addictive. It can have negative consequences, such as financial losses or relationship problems with family and friends.

When a person becomes addicted to gambling, they begin to spend more and more of their money on it and may even hide their activity. They may tell other people they have a problem but don’t tell them how much they lose or what they do to try to recover their money.

The person who gambles can also experience feelings of powerlessness, such as distorted cognitions or erroneous beliefs and feelings of desperation in trying to recoup losses. This can lead to feelings of shame and stigma about their behaviour and the harms they are causing.

These experiences of feeling powerless, particularly in relationships with the person who gambles or those who are affected by their gambling, can cause stress and anxiety. They can also be debilitating and create long-term health risks.

In addition to the effects of the behaviour itself, the gambling can exacerbate or generate harms related to alcohol abuse and depression. This is because it is an addiction, and gambling can be a catalyst for these conditions.

Consequently, it is important to have a definition of gambling harm that allows us to operationalise this concept and measure its impact. Using a definition that is consistent with standard public health approaches to measuring health outcomes will help us to better understand the influence of gambling on these outcomes.

In order to develop a more specific and relevant definition of gambling harm, the current research has utilised a combination of qualitative methods including focus groups and interviews. This method has the advantage of being non-threatening and non-aggressive, and provides an opportunity for participants to express their own opinions about the harms they have experienced from gambling. This has allowed for the development of a more robust and comprehensive definition of gambling harm that can be used to operationalise harms, and measure their impact in the future.