Gambling is when a person puts something of value at risk for the chance to win a prize. It can happen in casinos, on scratch cards, fruit machines or even in betting shops for horse and dog races and football accumulators. It is often an addiction and can have negative effects on a person’s health, work and family life. Problem gambling affects the whole community.
A number of problems can arise from gambling, including emotional and behavioural issues, financial issues and substance misuse. It can also cause other problems such as poor mental health, which in turn can lead to depression and anxiety. It is important to understand that a person can develop a gambling problem no matter what their age, gender or background is.
The ‘Gambling’ section of this website provides information about how gambling works, how it can be harmful and what to do if you are worried about your own or someone else’s behaviour. The information in this section is based on research and clinical practice. It is also influenced by the views of the Responsible Gambling Council and its member companies.
Problem gambling is when an activity, such as gambling, negatively impacts on a person’s physical or psychological well-being, their work and school performance, their relationships with family and friends, or their finances. This includes activities such as excessive gambling, lying to others or spending money that they cannot afford to lose. It can also include other activities that increase the risk of gambling such as alcohol use, unhealthy eating patterns and drug or cigarette abuse.
People can be affected by their environment, coping styles and beliefs about gambling. Psychological disorders or conditions, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, or a history of traumatic events or childhood trauma may make people more susceptible to developing a gambling problem.
Despite the growing awareness of the prevalence and harms of gambling, there are still limitations in the measurement of its effect on individuals’ lives. The most common measures are based on symptomatology, which is not necessarily related to the underlying causes of harmful gambling behaviour and therefore lack content validity and construct validity. Other measures use proxies such as the number of gambling-related symptoms and/or negative consequences, but this approach is not considered to be accurate or appropriate.
The Queensland Government’s definition of problem gambling uses a broader perspective, describing the negative impact on multiple aspects of a person’s life rather than just on financial well-being. This more holistic approach is useful as a general description of harm, but it does not specify the mechanism by which gambling generates or exacerbates these negative consequences. This is an important limitation because harms caused by gambling rarely occur in isolation; they frequently co-occur with a range of other harmful behaviours or reduced health states, such as substance use and depression.