Gambling Harms – A Taxonomy of Gambling Harms

Gambling is an activity that involves placing a bet on something of value, with the expectation of winning, and the risk of losing it. This can include betting on lottery tickets, games of chance such as poker, and even betting on office pools.

It is important to remember that gambling is an addiction, and that it can have a significant impact on your life. It can lead to financial losses, relationship breakdowns, and emotional and psychological distress, among other harms. It can also be linked to underlying mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

Harms from gambling are known to impact individuals, families and communities. However, there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of harm in relation to gambling and a lack of robust and inclusive measures that specifically target gambling harms, such as problem gambling symptomology. These issues are a barrier to efforts to address gambling from a public health perspective.

Understanding gambling as a behaviour rather than a disease and developing an international definition for gambling-harm are essential. It is important to recognise that the experiences of harms are different across individuals, families and communities, and it is necessary to develop a broad understanding of the full range of harms and consequences of gambling.

The experience of gambling-related harm was examined using four separate methodologies; a literature review, interviews with people who gambled and their affected others, focus groups and consultations with professionals involved in support and treatment for those experiencing gambling problems, and an analysis of public forum posts on gambling-related issues. The catalogue of harms was then organised as a conceptual framework and a taxonomy of gambling related harms was generated from the data.

Beliefs around Gambling

Beliefs about the ability to win, or that certain rituals or practices can bring good luck and increase the chances of winning, were found to be common within this context. It was recognised that this could be a trigger for gambling, and that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help to challenge these beliefs and reduce the intensity of gambling.

Relationship Harms

The loss of trust within a relationship was reported as one of the most common and pervasive harms, a source of conflict and breakdown of relationships. This was a clear and persistent feature of the data, particularly when gambling was at a diagnostically problematic level.

Loss of Control over the Gambling Behaviour was also a prominent theme in the data. It was also evident that people who were suffering from the gambling problem would be more prone to expressing their desire to gamble, and this was associated with poorer control over their gambling behaviour and a more negative experience of it.

Binge Gambling was a recurring feature in the data and it was found that this was a form of gambling that lasted for very short periods and could cause significant harm. This was particularly the case for people who had a history of gambling, such as previous problem gamblers.