Gambling is the act of placing a bet or stake on an event with the intention of winning something of value. The activity can take many forms, from placing a bet on a football match to playing a scratchcard. Whatever form it takes, gambling requires three things: consideration, risk and a prize. It can be considered a form of entertainment and for some people it is, but for others it can become an addiction that leads to financial and personal problems.
There has been a long history of people who make their living, whether dishonestly or legitimately, from gambling and also a long history of legal prohibition on gambling, sometimes on moral or religious grounds, and often to preserve public order and prevent the rise of uncontrolled behaviours like gang robbery and other violent disputes over money. In the modern world, there are still some people who earn their living from gambling but it is much more common for people to engage in gambling as an individual leisure pursuit.
Research has shown that there are a number of harms associated with gambling. These can be felt by the person who gambles, their affected others and the broader community. The research has identified three levels of harm – the first level of harm is the erosion of savings and financial resources which can lead to a lack of discretionary spending on family outings or social activities, involvement in artistic, cultural, sporting or educational activities and a decline in the capacity to save for future needs.
The second level of harm identified is the impact on relationships, especially those within families. This may include strained parental relationships, relationship difficulties with children and increased conflict between spouses. The third level of harm is the negative impact on wider society and the economy. This includes the impact on employment opportunities for those who gamble excessively, reduced productivity for businesses and a reduction in tax revenues.
The best way to reduce the risk of harmful gambling is to set limits on how much you can spend and to stick to them. It is also important to strengthen your support network and if you don’t have any friends who don’t gamble, try reaching out to new people in the local community or by joining a club or group. You could even join a gambling recovery group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous and can help you to overcome your addiction. If you are worried about your debts, speak to StepChange for free, confidential advice. You can also seek help from a GP or a mental health professional. The sooner you address the issue, the better for both your finances and your wellbeing.