What is the difference between gambling and harmful gambling?
Gambling is simply defined as 'to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance'. Usually, gambling is a fun and safe leisure activity involving games of chance for money or material goods.
However, when a person has the urge to continuously gamble despite negative and harmful consequences or the desire to stop this is identified as 'harmful gambling' and will often require specialist intervention and support to address the issue.
Why it matters
Gambling related harm (GRH) research findings show that 47% of the population, aged 16 years and over, have taken part in some form of gambling in the past four weeks. Estimates from various reports published by the Gambling Commission and Gamble Aware respectively, indicate there are between 500,000 to 1.4 million problem gamblers in the UK. The Young People and Gambling Survey in 2019 revealed that 11% (350,000) of 11 to 16-year olds self-reported to have spent their own money gambling in the last week. These results were found to be higher than smoking tobacco (6%) and illegal drug use (5%). The report also found that as many as 55,000 young people nationally are classified as problem gamblers.
The impact of harmful gambling
The level of impact of harmful gambling on both the individual and aected others include: mental health and wellbeing issues, higher risk of suicidal ideation or intent, drug and alcohol misuse, financial crisis, problems with education or work, criminality, relationship diculties and the associated social and psychological impact on aected others. Findings published by the Institute for Public Policy Research in 2016 discovered that harmful gamblers, in contrast to the general population, are:
- 3 times more likely to have visited their GP in the last year due to mental health issues
- 9 times more likely to be accessing mental health services
- 6 times more likely to have been a hospital inpatient within the last 3 months
- 3 times more likely to be claiming Job Seekers Allowance
- 9 times more likely to access homelessness services
- 4 times more likely to be in prison
The report also highlighted that the fiscal cost, by harmful gamblers on the public purse, could be as much as £1.2 billion per year throughout the UK.
What are the indicators and signs of harmful gambling?
The indicators that an individual's gambling behaviour is problematic and harmful include:
- Preoccupation - often thinking about or planning to gamble
- Tolerance - needing to gamble with more money to get excitement
- Withdrawal - negative emotions when trying to cut down on gambling
- Loss of control - spending more than you plan to (time and money)
- Escape - the motivation for gambling being to escape negative elements of life
- Chasing losses - gambling to try and win back money that has been lost
- Lying - gambling leading to lying to friends and family
- Illegal acts - taking money without permission, misusing money to fund gambling
- Risked relationships - putting personal relationships at risk
How to respond
If you are worried or concerned help is available through The National Gambling Helpline. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through GamCare.
The Big Deal Project is a separate service specifically for young people aged 11 to 19 years.
You can call both services free on 0808 8020 133, or by visiting GamCare or BigDeal.
Referral to specialist service provision
Beacon Counselling Trust (BCT) is a specialist service providing treatment, advice, and support to anyone aged 16 or over throughout North West England. Contact the main office on 0151 226 0696 and for gambling related counselling call: 0151 321 1099 or visit Beacon Counselling Trust.
Want to know more?
BCT provides free interactive harmful gambling workshops to both young people and professionals as part of their 'Big Deal' and 'Bet You Can Help' programmes. These sessions help participants recognise risk factors, signs, and symptoms and address how to access support.
Contact 0151 226 0696 or visit Beacon Counselling Trust for more details.