How to Address the Harms of Gambling


The term ‘Gambling’ refers to the wagering of something of value on a random event, where instances of strategy are discounted. Gambling is considered an addictive behaviour and it has the potential to cause a variety of harms, both to the person who gambles and others within their community. Typically, the consequences of gambling are viewed as financial but they can also involve damage to relationships, emotions and health, impact on work or study and impacts on social and community activities. The first step to addressing these problems is to recognise that they exist and then work towards recovery.

Gambling can take many forms, including:

Betting on sports or other events – such as horse and greyhound racing, football accumulators, elections and lotteries

Gaming machines and fruit machines

Online gambling – for example, playing online casino games and poker machines

The act of attempting to win something by risking money or valuables. Gambling is an activity that involves a high degree of uncertainty, often with a low probability of winning and a large cost to the individual, in terms of money or time. It can be an enjoyable pastime but it is important to understand the risks involved in order to stay safe and avoid harm.

People who have a mental illness or who are struggling with substance abuse or eating disorders may be more at risk of harmful gambling. These conditions can be triggered by or made worse by compulsive gambling. People with these issues should seek support from a GP or a counsellor.

There is a broad range of treatments available for people who have a problem with gambling. Counselling can help a person to deal with the emotional distress that can come from a gambling problem and to learn coping mechanisms. In addition, family therapy can help people to resolve any underlying relationship problems that may have contributed to the problem and to develop skills to manage finances in future.

Research to address the harms of gambling is best done using a longitudinal design. This type of study can identify the factors that influence a person’s gambling behaviour over time and help to establish causal pathways.

The key to tackling any problem is getting the right kind of help. This might include family therapy or debt counselling, which can provide a solid foundation to repairing damaged relationships and building healthy financial habits in the future. In addition, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP or get in touch with StepChange for free debt advice. This can help you understand how your gambling is affecting your overall wellbeing and how to seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders. These will need to be addressed alongside any addiction treatment that you are undergoing. A recovery journey isn’t easy, but it is possible to overcome a gambling addiction with the right support. This includes knowing how to spot the warning signs and taking action as soon as they emerge.