Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value – such as money or things that have a material value, like marbles or collectible game pieces – to try and predict the outcome of a game involving chance. This can be done in a variety of ways including at casinos, racetracks, on the internet or even by buying a lotto ticket or placing a bet with friends. Gambling is often associated with winning large amounts of money but can also lead to harm.
Problem gambling is an issue that affects the person who gambles, their family and friends and the broader community. It can lead to financial, emotional, social and psychological harms and impact on work or study. There are a number of steps that can be taken to help someone with a gambling problem. One of the first is recognising that there is a problem and seeking professional help. This can be difficult, especially if it has strained relationships or a person has lost significant amounts of money.
The research was conducted in the form of a series of focus groups and interviews with individuals who identified that they had experienced harm from their own or others’ gambling. Interviews ranged from twenty to sixty minutes and were conducted face-to-face or over the telephone. The interviews were semi-structured and participants were recruited through advertising on social media. The interviews were divided into two phases – one with people who gambled and the other with affected others – and the focus group data was analysed using constant comparison.
Initial themes that emerged were grouped into three categories: harms experienced by the person who gambles, those caused by gambling on their family and friends and the broader community. The harms were further broken down into six different thematic classifications: financial, those affecting relationships, those that are emotional or social and impacts on work or study and criminal acts.
Another theme was that gambling harms are not linear and that they occur over time, with some harms lingering long after the person has stopped engaging in the behaviour. This was also referred to as the ‘legacy’ of harm.
In addition, it was found that gambling products are designed to be addictive and that there is a high level of interplay between the reward and risk components of the product. The research also highlighted that some gambling harms are a result of the person’s underlying mental health issues. These include depression and anxiety, which are common among people who have had gambling problems. It is important that these issues are recognised and treated as well as the gambling behaviour. The research found that many gambling harms are preventable. This is achieved by ensuring that gambling is not a primary source of income, that people gamble responsibly and by having strong relationships with those around them. To further minimise harm, it is important that people only gamble with money they can afford to lose and set limits on how much they will spend or how long they will gamble for.