Gambling Harm

Gambling is an activity that involves risk of losing money, or winning a prize, whether it’s playing lotto, betting on sport events, gambling online or using pokies. Often people get addicted to gambling, and it can have a negative impact on their life.

Harm and gambling

There is no clear definition of harm when it comes to gambling, but some experts suggest that it is a problem that is a consequence rather than a cause. This is because harm can be a result of a wide range of factors, including the environment in which gambling takes place, behavioural traits and risk-taking habits of the person who gambles, and the effects of social or economic disadvantage.

Harm is a common term used to describe negative consequences of behaviours, which can include financial harms or physical and emotional harms. However, measures that specifically target gambling harm are underdeveloped, and there is no widely agreed definition of harm in relation to gambling.

This paper aims to contribute a functional definition of harm that can be operationalised to support the measurement of gambling related harm consistent with standard epidemiological protocols used in public health. It also aims to provide a conceptual framework for gambling related harm as a consequence or outcome that captures the breadth of how harms can manifest for the person who gambles, their affected others and the broader community.

A definition of harm is important because it enables researchers to distinguish between issues that may be interrelated, but distinct. These include categorisations of behaviours, clinical diagnosis, risk factors and the environment in which gambling occurs.

The definition of harm in this paper was developed from a combination of inductive analysis and the application of existing theories based on data gathered across a wide range of research contexts. These included a large scale survey and interviews with people who gambled, their family and friends and the wider community.

Results of the surveys and interviews indicated that a wide range of harms could be experienced by the person who gambled, their family and friends and wider community. These ranged from the impact of gambling on their relationships and work, through to the effects of gambling on their physical and mental health and the impacts of gambling on their cultural identity.

Harms can be short-term or long-term and can be associated with a variety of outcomes including relationship problems, job losses, financial loss and criminal acts. In addition, they can have a wide range of societal impacts including reducing participation in sport and leisure activities, and increasing the risks of violence, robbery and homelessness.

These findings indicate that there is a broad spectrum of gambling related harms, which can be classified into six thematic categories grouped by domains and temporal points of significance. These are: