Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event of chance, where instances of strategy are discounted. The activity takes many forms, and can be conducted in a range of places including casinos, racetracks, social events and on the internet. People who gamble are exposed to a risk of losing money, time or other valuable resources, and may also experience the loss of relationships or their health. Harms from gambling affect individuals, families and communities; however, there is currently no robustly agreed definition of harm that is able to capture the breadth and complexity of gambling related harm experiences. Furthermore, the use of inadequate proxy measures such as problem gambling symptomology limits our understanding of harms and impedes efforts to address gambling from a public health perspective.
The initial themes that emerged from the research highlighted that harm can be experienced at three levels: personal, family and broader community. Initially six different thematic classifications were identified that could occur in parallel or sequentially: financial harms, those affecting relationships, emotional/psychological harms, impacts on work, study and economic activities, impact on health and criminal acts. The research also indicated that harms can be felt in the immediate and/or long term, and that there is often a temporal point of significance that can be referred to as a crisis.
A key challenge to defining gambling harm is that it is difficult to separate the behaviour from its consequences. This confusion is evident in the way that terms such as “harm”, “problem gambling”, and “negative consequences” are used in the literature. For example, the definition of “harm” in the Queensland Government Report by Neal et al  and Currie et al  includes both the behaviour and its consequences – a conflation that is also evident in the way that symptoms are used as a proxy measure of harm in screening instruments such as the PGSI.
People who gamble can be influenced by a number of factors, including mood and behaviour disorders. This may lead to gambling to try to alleviate these issues or simply to seek a thrill and excitement. However, in some cases it can become a serious addiction that has the same harmful effects as other drug and alcohol addictions.
Taking control of your gambling involves creating boundaries for yourself. You should decide before you start gambling how much you are prepared to lose, and not go beyond this. Also set up a budget to spend each session, so you are aware of what you’re spending and can avoid going into debt. Gambling can also be a very social activity, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who aren’t addicted to gambling and who can support you if you feel like your gambling is becoming a problem. You can get free, confidential debt advice from StepChange if you’re struggling with your finances. They can help you find a repayment plan that suits you and your situation. They can also help you to access other debt and welfare services if necessary.