Gambling Harms – A Taxonomy of Gambling Harms


Gambling is an activity where people risk money or other goods in order to win or lose. It can include betting on horse races, sports events, and lottery games, as well as fruit machines or scratch cards.

For many people gambling is a harmless, occasional activity that is enjoyed for social entertainment or as a form of relaxation and relief from unpleasant feelings. However, for others gambling can become a serious problem and lead to addiction.

A person with a gambling problem needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve and desired excitement. They find it difficult to resist the urge to gamble and are restless and irritable when they try to stop. They make repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut down or stop gambling.

They feel a need to keep gambling even though it has become detrimental to their health and relationships. They experience intense anxiety, depression and mood swings as a result of their gambling.

Often there are other ways to relieve uncomfortable feelings in healthier and more effective ways. For example, exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or learning relaxation techniques can be beneficial.

There are also a number of organisations that provide support for people who have gambling problems. They may be able to help you change your habits or stop gambling altogether.

The concept of harm is important in understanding the impact of gambling on individuals and society as a whole. There is no one internationally agreed-upon definition of harm, and the term has a number of different meanings within different contexts.

This paper aims to provide a framework that can be used to identify and understand the range of harms experienced by those who engage with gambling. The framework is based on a combination of literature and consultation with experts and community sources.

Harm was defined in terms of the impact that gambling had on a variety of domains including, but not limited to: interpersonal relationships, the person who gambled’s health and wellbeing, financial harm, emotional or psychological distress and the broader community as a whole.

The data was analysed using thematic analysis, where each harm was classified into sub-themes that had clear affinities with other themes. These thematic groups represented the initial theoretical framework that was developed from the data, and were reflected in the taxonomy of harms that emerged.

There were a range of harms that were identified as a consequence of gambling, including primary and second order harmful behaviours such as self harm and suicidal ideation. These were generally anecdotal reports by treatment providers but exhibited an increased frequency in those experiencing problems with gambling than those who had problem drinking or drug use.

These harms were considered to be a crisis point in seeking assistance and treatment for both the person who gambled and their affected others. There was a sense that this type of harm created ongoing decrements to health as a legacy.