How to Prevent Gambling-Related Harm

Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intent to win a prize. It can be a fun and social activity for many people, but it can also lead to addiction. People who struggle with gambling addiction may experience serious financial, physical, psychological and/or social problems. Identifying and addressing these issues is critical to the prevention of gambling-related harm.

A basic policy question is whether the benefits of gambling outweigh the costs, which can be determined with benefit-cost analysis. However, the complexities of measuring the effects of gambling make such analyses difficult to conduct. For example, it can be difficult to measure intangible social costs such as the emotional pain experienced by family members of pathological gamblers or the productivity losses associated with employees who engage in gambling.

In addition, gambling is often promoted through marketing to young people, with a particular focus on sports betting and online casino gaming. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to gambling marketing, as they are often exposed to these messages through their social media accounts (Lopez-Gonzalez et al, 2017).

People with an addictive tendency to gamble often feel compelled to keep engaging in the activity, even after experiencing a loss. They may also feel a need to “chase” their losses, increasing their bets in the hope that they will win back their money. This can cause them to spend more than they can afford, and it may affect their relationships with family members and friends.

While it is often possible to recover from a gambling addiction, it is important to seek help early on. Getting professional medical and psychological advice is recommended, as well as seeking peer support. For example, a person with an addiction to gambling can join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a 12-step program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Developing healthy coping skills can also help a person with an addiction to gambling stop gambling and reduce the negative impact on their life. These include learning to manage stress and boredom through other means, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, taking up a new hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques.

Another key component of a healthy coping strategy is setting limits for spending on gambling. It is recommended to only gamble with disposable income and never use money that needs to be saved or used for other purposes, such as rent or bills. It is also helpful to set a timer on your phone or computer when you are gambling, so that you can remind yourself that it is time to stop.

It is also important to set boundaries if you are supporting a loved one with a gambling problem. This includes not lending or paying off a gambling debt, as this can enable the behavior and can also cause financial harm. You should also get legal and financial advice so you know your rights if necessary, including changing your will to ensure that any future inheritance is not used for gambling.