Gambling is a risky behaviour that involves the use of money or something of value to win something of greater value. There are a number of ways that people can gamble, including playing the lottery, gambling on sporting events, or using the Internet to place wagers.
Harm from gambling is a significant problem globally and can have negative consequences for the individual who gambles, their families, and the wider community. However, a lack of internationally agreed-upon definitions of gambling related harm has hindered efforts to address these harms from a public health perspective.
This paper develops a conceptual framework for gambling related harm that can be operationalised to support the measurement of harm consistent with standard epidemiological protocols used in public health. The framework identifies a taxonomy of harms utilising the conceptual framework experienced by the person who gambles, their affected others and the broader community.
The current literature on gambling utilises a number of different definitions for gambling harm that often lack a clear link between the source of harm and its impact or consequence. This conflation of the negative consequences or outcomes with the behaviour is not only inconsistent with gambling research and clinical practice, but also creates an under-developed conceptualisation of gambling related harm for measurement purposes.
There is a growing interest in gambling, as well as a number of academic disciplines interested in the social determinants of the behaviour and the psychological factors involved in its development. This has shaped an ongoing debate as to whether or not there should be a definition of gambling harm, and how this can be operationalised for the purpose of measurement.
While a range of measures can be developed to assess and measure problem gambling, there is limited research or policy that examines the broader range of gambling related harms. This is largely due to the current landscape of gambling research and policy that uses inadequate proxy measures for harm, such as problem gambling symptomology.
Conceptualising Gambling related harm
There are three major areas of concern in defining gambling related harm: the harm experienced by the person who gambles, the harm experienced by their affected others, and the impact on the broader community. These areas are interrelated and have implications for the development of a broader understanding of gambling related harm that can be applied to policy, clinical practice and research.
Relationships are integral in gaming and can have a significant impact on the development of problem gambling, if the person who gambles is not well supported in their relationships. In addition to the negative effect on personal and financial health, gaming can disrupt family relationships, create conflict between friends, and interfere with work or school commitments.
Time is important in all relationship dynamics and gambling negatively impacts on this, particularly where the person who gambles has a family, partner or significant other. In the data this was associated with a loss of trust in the relationship where the person who gambled was perceived as distracted or withdrawing from their partner or family.