Gambling – A Taxonomy of Harm


Gambling is the act of risking something of value – usually money – in an attempt to win something else of value. It can be done in many ways, including playing card games for real cash or virtual currency, placing bets on sporting events or other outcomes, and even putting money into a lottery ticket. It is important to remember that gambling is a risky activity, and you should never gamble more than you can afford to lose.

The first step to overcoming gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. Once you acknowledge this, you can take steps to stop the behavior and rebuild your life. This may involve seeking treatment or rehab, or simply taking steps to reduce your exposure to gambling opportunities (i.e., closing credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your finances, getting rid of online betting accounts, and only keeping a small amount of cash on hand). It can also be helpful to find a support group to help you stay accountable to your commitment to overcome gambling addiction.

Although some people gamble responsibly and within their means, others develop a gambling disorder that can lead to significant harms for themselves and others. In addition to financial costs, gambling can cause psychological distress, substance abuse, and mental health problems. In some cases, a person’s gambling can interfere with family relationships and work life. In the worst cases, pathological gambling (PG) can lead to legal problems and severe financial difficulties.

Currently, there is no robust, internationally agreed-upon definition of harm associated with gambling. Instead, research has largely focused on the symptoms of problem gambling (e.g., lying to others about gambling) as a proxy measure of harm. Such a focus limits understanding of harm and impedes efforts to address gambling from a public health perspective.

The goal of this paper is to provide a functional definition of gambling related harm that can be operationalised and measured in a way consistent with standard epidemiological protocols used in public health. It also identifies a taxonomy of harm that demonstrates the breadth of experience at three levels: the person who gambles, affected others and the community.

It is also a call to action for improved regulation of simulated gambling games, with clearer warnings about the addictive potential of such games. This would improve consumer protections and allow for the development of better, more accurate measurement tools. Furthermore, longitudinal studies are needed to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate an individual’s gambling participation. Such studies will be critical in the development of a comprehensive model for assessing the impact of gambling on individuals, families and communities. Such a model will be essential to developing effective prevention and treatment interventions. The development of such a model will also be critical for policymakers to make informed decisions about the appropriate level of regulatory intervention. Such an approach is necessary for the promotion of responsible gambling and ensuring that gambling opportunities are available to all, without causing harm.

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