Gambling is a form of risky behaviour in which people bet on an event with an uncertain outcome. It may involve placing a bet on something physical like a horse race, or on something that can’t physically be touched, such as an electronic machine. The result of a bet can affect people’s financial status, relationships and mental health. There are many forms of gambling and some are illegal in certain countries.

Gambling has always been around. There have always been professional gamblers who make a living from it, honest or not, and there has also been legal prohibition on gambling for moral or religious reasons, or to preserve public order where disputes over gambling led to violent disputes or criminal acts.

Whether it’s in the movies where Lady Luck is waiting for you at the end of the slot machine reels or on TV where the football team you bet on wins your money, gambling can offer a feeling of excitement and euphoria when things go your way. However, gambling can cause significant harm if you have a problem and it’s important to recognise this when thinking about your finances and your gambling habits.

A key aspect of a functional definition is its ability to capture the breadth and complexity of harms that people experience from gambling. To this end, the first thematic classification of harms that emerged from the data was the idea that harms occur at the three levels of person who gambles, affected others and broader community.

The second thematic classification of harms that emerged was the idea that harms are experienced in a number of ways, both sequentially and in parallel. To this end, the research identified six different ways that harms could be experienced:

A third thematic classification of harms that emerged was an idea that harms can occur in a range of domains within a person’s life. To this end, the research identified seven different domains in which harms might be experienced:

The final thematic classification of harms that emerged was a recognition that the way in which gambling affects individuals’ lives can vary depending on their particular circumstances. This includes factors such as a person’s gender, age, social and cultural backgrounds, and level of education. The research also recognised that gambling can also interact with other issues, such as depression and alcohol abuse. This can lead to people gambling as a form of self-medication or to try and cover up problems they are experiencing. If you’re worried about the impact of gambling on your life, speak to a debt advisor – it’s free and confidential. You can get in touch with StepChange here. Alternatively, you can contact the Samaritans for free, non-judgemental support. They can help you work through the issues that are causing your gambling problems and provide you with practical advice on how to manage them. Alternatively, you can seek treatment for your gambling problem through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is an effective and well-established treatment method that involves learning to challenge irrational beliefs, such as the notion that a string of losses means that the next bet will be a winner, or that a ‘near miss’ – like two out of three cherries on a slot machine – is actually a sign of luck.