Gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value (including money) on an event with an uncertain outcome. It is considered a form of entertainment and can be conducted by people of all ages and backgrounds. The act of gambling can result in positive or negative consequences for the gambler and others. It can affect a person’s physical and mental health, relationships, employment and study, cause financial difficulty and even lead to homelessness.
Problematic gambling can be associated with mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. This is because many people who have mental health problems use gambling as a way to self-soothe or distract themselves from unpleasant feelings. Similarly, those who experience financial difficulties often turn to gambling as a way to alleviate their stress or make ends meet.
It can be difficult to know if gambling is causing harm, especially as it’s a hidden addiction. Some people lie to family and friends about their gambling, or try to conceal their activity by hiding money or gambling paraphernalia around the house. There is also a risk that people may be able to manipulate the odds on online casino games and betting websites. In the UK, more than half of all adults have gambled. This includes social gambling, such as scratchcards and bingo, and a range of other forms of gambling, including lotteries, horse racing and the pokies.
When a person gambles they are making a bet with the hope of winning more than they wagered. This can be a small amount or large sum of money and can include anything from buying a lottery ticket to betting on a football match. Gambling is a popular pastime and an integral part of our society.
Despite this, the prevalence of gambling related harm is well established and it has been linked to a range of other problems. In the UK, there are more than 400,000 people with gambling problems, which can damage their physical and mental health, cause relationship difficulties, poor performance at work or school and leave them in debt. In addition, research has shown a link between gambling and thoughts of suicide.
The definition of harm in gambling has been the subject of debate. The work of Neal et al  and Currie et al  criticized the use of “problem gambling” diagnostic criteria and behavioural symptoms as measures of harm, arguing that they are overly simplistic and do not capture the nuances of the harms caused by gambling.
The aim of this paper is to propose a new definition and conceptual framework for gambling harm that incorporates the breadth of the experiences of harm, as well as the underlying mechanisms. This will facilitate the development of more appropriate measures of harm. In order to achieve this, a multi-method approach has been employed: a literature review; focus groups and interviews with professionals involved in the treatment and support of gambling problems; an analysis of public forum posts by people who have gambled and their affected others; and a catalogue of harms that have been categorised into a taxonomy.