Gambling involves putting something of value (typically money) on an event with an element of chance, such as a football match or scratchcard. The outcome of the event depends on a combination of factors – a player’s decision to gamble, the odds (which are set by the betting company) and the outcome of the gambling event itself. There are a number of different ways to gamble, including online gaming, lottery games, and card games. The activity is legal or illegal in various jurisdictions around the world, and the prize can range from cash to goods to services.
The majority of people who engage in gambling do so without any serious problems. However, there are a number of individuals who develop problem gambling (PG). PG is a complex disorder characterised by recurrent maladaptive patterns of behaviour leading to significant impairment or distress. It is typically diagnosed based on a range of self-report and interview tools and is treated using a stepped-care model with psychosocial interventions. Medications may also be used to supplement these therapies.
A common approach taken by public health bodies in relation to gambling is the goal of harm minimisation. However, the concept of harm is subjective and there is no single definition that is accepted by all groups working on gambling and related issues. Moreover, there is a difficulty in isolating the specific effects of gambling from those caused by comorbidities. It is therefore important to develop a common understanding of the breadth and experience of harm in order to inform gambling policy and practice.