Gambling is a form of betting on an event that occurs with chance. Whether you’re betting on sports, bingo, the stock market or the lottery, there is an element of risk in every bet. There is also a potential to win something of value (money, property, etc.).
Historically, gambling has been linked to belief in luck or fate. In ancient China, a game of chance called ‘casting lots’ was a common way to divide a property between family members. Today, people gamble for a variety of reasons, such as to relieve stress, socialize with friends or take their minds off problems.
There are three levels of severity identified in this group of harms: general harms, relationship harms and legacy harms. The categories do not represent a continuum and may vary in their intensity as a person engages with gambling or over time.
The first level of severity is the loss of surplus or discretionary income and financial resources resulting from the purchase of gambling products beyond necessities. These losses had an impact on the person who gambled, and affected others.
These harms were generally seen as a process of automaticity or an absence of conscious choice where gambling was a preferred activity that was prioritised over other non-gambling activities such as holidays, sporting, cultural or artistic pursuits. Treatment professionals reported instances of people who gambled deciding to spend the majority of their savings or financial resources on gambling products.
The second level of severity is the impact of gambling on a person’s relationship with their partner, spouse, child(ren) or other significant other and the corresponding effects on trust. In some cases this was a direct result of the person who gambled assuming a parental role with their partner, in some cases it was an extension of the relationship and in some instances it was an ongoing problem that could have long term impact on the relationship.
Often, there is an underlying fear of losing money or property which can create an intense desire to gamble in an attempt to win back the funds lost. This can be exacerbated by feelings of depression or anxiety or by financial distress.
This is especially a concern in a vulnerable group such as the young or elderly. In these groups there is a high likelihood of a gambling addiction developing and therefore it can have a major impact on their relationships, finances and wellbeing.
Despite its negative consequences, gambling is a popular recreational activity. In fact, nearly four out of five Americans say they have gambled at some point in their lives. The popularity of gambling has increased in recent years as technology makes it easier and more accessible. The number of people who have a gambling problem has also increased. If you have a gambling problem, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.