Gambling involves risking money or other assets to predict the outcome of an activity involving chance, such as playing a game of poker, bingo, lotteries and betting on sporting events. Some forms of gambling are legal and can be fun, but others can lead to financial and relationship problems, or even bankruptcy.
The consequences of gambling vary, depending on the level of involvement, frequency and amount of money spent. However, harms to individuals, their relationships and to the broader community are common across all levels of engagement.
Understanding the breadth and experience of harm to people who gamble and those affected by their behaviour is essential for promoting and delivering effective and sustainable approaches to the prevention and treatment of gambling related harms. Developing a framework that captures the complexity of the harms experienced by people who gamble, those affected by their behaviour and the broader community is critical.
A conceptual framework that encompasses the broad range of harms to people who gamble, those affected by their behaviours and the broader community is critical for generating a coherent interpretation of gambling related harm across treatment providers, policy makers and researchers. It also allows for the operationalisation and measurement of gambling related harms in a way that is consistent with standard public health approaches to measuring behavioural outcomes, which are used to identify the prevalence of problem behaviours.
To identify the harms that a person who gambles experiences and the harms that those who affect their behaviours experience, a broad and detailed investigation of the literature was conducted. Inductive analysis of the data and the concepts generated from these investigations informed the development of a conceptual framework that captures the broad range of harms to people that engage with gambling, those affected by their behaviours and the wider community.
Harm to the person who gambles included a range of negative psychological and emotional effects from their gambling including: self-blame and shame, distorted cognitions and beliefs, feelings of powerlessness, desperation and despair. In addition, the person who gambles may experience social and interpersonal distress arising from the impact of their behaviour on other people and the resulting loss of trust and friendship.
A harm to the affected other includes a range of negative psychological and emotional effects resulting from the interaction with the person who gambles. These include: distorted cognitions and beliefs, feelings and behaviours of powerlessness, depression and anxiety, desperation and despair and the inability to control or influence the person who gambles.
Legacy harms relating to a person who gambles’ earlier and previous engagement with gambling were often closely associated with those of the affected other, with these harms occurring both from the first time that a person engaged with gambling and those that occurred beyond this. These harms often stemmed from the person who gambled committing significant amounts of money to the gambling product, and thereby exhausting their surplus income or resources.
In order to address the legacy harms that result from a person who gambles’ earlier and past engagement with gambling, it is important to seek support and counselling from a trusted friend or family member. Counselling can be a valuable tool in helping the person who gambles overcome their problem and learn to manage their emotions and behaviours in healthy ways. It can also help them understand the harm that gambling has caused and lay the foundation for repairing their relationships and addressing their finances.