How to Reduce the Harm Caused by Gambling


Gambling is risking something of value (usually money) on an event whose outcome is determined at least in part by chance. It is a major global activity and people can gamble on many different things – from the result of a football match to buying a scratch card. In most cases, the gambler hopes to win and get something of value in return – but gambling can lead to serious problems if it becomes addictive.

There are several ways to reduce the harm caused by gambling. These include:

Taking control of your money – only ever gamble with disposable income, not the money you need to save or pay bills. It’s also important to balance your time with other activities and avoid using gambling as a way to escape emotions.

Setting time limits – decide how long you want to spend gambling and leave when you reach this limit, whether you’re winning or losing. Avoid chasing lost money – this usually makes losses worse.

Finding an alternative – try to find things to do that are more rewarding and help you forget about your gambling. It could be a hobby, exercise or socialising with friends.

Talking about it – sharing your feelings with someone who won’t judge you can help. It can also be helpful to find a support group or professional counsellor who can help you with your gambling problems.

Understanding why you gamble – many gambling products are designed to keep you hooked, so it’s important to understand how they work and what the odds of winning are.

Keeping in mind the risks – gambling can be addictive, and the excitement of winning and feeling of euphoria can be difficult to resist. However, it’s important to remember that gambling is always a risky activity and you will often lose.

Seeking treatment – it can be hard to stop gambling, but getting help is the first step to recovery. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy can be beneficial.

Compulsive gambling – this is the most severe form of gambling disorder and can cause financial problems, debt and even crime such as theft and fraud. Symptoms can begin in childhood or adolescence and may be exacerbated by stress, depression or relationship difficulties. Compulsive gambling can also be linked to trauma, poverty and social inequality, particularly in women.

Only one in ten people with gambling disorders seek treatment. Some people with gambling disorders can recover on their own, but many need help from family, friends or a professional. To reduce the harm caused by gambling, take steps to control your money, balance your spending and budget, talk about your gambling with a trusted person, and find new things to fill the time you used to spend gambling. See the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ for more information.