Gambling is the act of risking something of value (money or other possessions) in a game of chance with the intention of winning more money or some other thing of value. In this sense it is distinct from other activities such as betting on sports or buying Lotto tickets, which involve an agreed stake between parties.
Gambling can be harmful if the activity is done compulsively and without control. It can cause people to spend more money than they have and even go into debt. It can also lead to problems with relationships, work and health. It is often linked to depression and other mood disorders. It is also linked to substance misuse, such as alcohol and drugs.
It is important to recognise that gambling related harms occur at a wide range of levels and intensities, and can impact not only the individual gambler but also family members, friends and community members. A significant amount of research evidence suggests that people who gamble are more likely to experience harms if they engage in compulsive gambling, particularly if they do so regularly and with higher amounts of money.
The first level of harm identified by researchers is the erosion of savings and financial resources and a loss of capacity to invest in discretionary but not luxury items such as family outings, social activities, sporting and cultural pursuits, or education and training. The loss of such resources can have a significant effect on the quality of life and well-being of those affected by a person’s gambling.
The second level of harm identified by researchers is a loss of social connections and the isolation and alienation that may result from compulsive gambling. This can include a lack of interest in and/or involvement with family, friends and other communities. The loss of a social network can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, which in turn can contribute to the recurrence of gambling problems.
The third and final level of harm identified by researchers is the escalation of problem behaviours, such as lying, theft and fraud, that may occur in an attempt to cover up gambling losses or to fund other gambling activities. This can have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of those involved, including family, friends and community. In addition, such escalating behaviours can be a precursor to more serious issues like homelessness and suicide.