Gambling Prevention and Harm Reduction


Gambling is an activity that involves taking a risk with money or other valuables in a venture that has the potential to return a profit. Examples include lotteries, casino games and sports betting. Gambling can be enjoyable and rewarding for some people, but for others it can damage their health and relationships, make them more likely to get into debt or even lead to homelessness. It can also have a negative impact on the wider economy.

A growing body of evidence supports the effectiveness of prevention and harm reduction activities and interventions. However, many programmes do not have sufficient evaluation capacity and are unable to identify the right mix of interventions at population and individual levels. This needs to change.

A number of organisations are working to improve the treatment and support available for gambling-related problems, including reducing waiting lists and increasing access to services. However, these services are limited in scope and reach compared with those for other addictions and mental health problems. They are also underfunded and reliant on voluntary donations.

The National Commission on Harm Reduction has set improving the quality and availability of treatment and support as one of its two strategic priorities. This will involve better commissioning and oversight arrangements, and improved care pathways through primary and secondary care. It will also focus on improving the availability of specialised gambling treatment services for people with complex and multiple needs, and those who have other mental health problems alongside their gambling-related difficulties.

There is a growing body of evidence that a range of prevention and harm reduction activities and interventions can help people to control their gambling, reduce their risk and avoid or recover from problems. These include:

It is important to recognise and address any triggers that can cause gambling to become a problem. This can be done by talking to a family member, friend or professional counsellor. In addition, avoiding or reducing exposure to gambling venues and the television and internet is useful. Trying new hobbies or activities, such as taking up exercise, can also help to replace the habit of gambling.

Another way to prevent gambling-related problems is to strengthen a person’s support network. This can be done by finding ways to socialise with people who do not gamble. This may be through joining a book club, sports team or volunteer organisation. A person can also try to find alternative hobbies that will occupy their time and provide them with a sense of reward, such as painting or gardening.

A person should also be sure to set limits on their gambling and to leave when they are losing money. They should not attempt to chase their losses, as this is likely to increase the losses they experience. In addition, they should avoid gambling while in a stressful or depressed state. Finally, they should avoid using credit cards and relying on borrowing to fund their gambling.