Harm minimisation in gambling

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Gainsbury, S & Wood, R 2012, 'Harm minimisation in gambling' in R Pates & D Riley (eds), Harm reduction in substance use and high-risk behaviour: international policy and practice, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK, pp. 263-278. ISBN: 9781405182973

Peer Reviewed



Gambling is a recreational activity that, when restricted to affordable limits, is experienced as an enjoyable socially acceptable leisure activity. For the majority of individuals, participation in gambling is comparable to purchasing and participating in a range of other recreational activities, such as a night out at the cinema or theatre, skiing, shopping, or eating out at restaurants. However, for a minority of community members, gambling behaviour can become episodically or chronically excessive resulting in significant negative consequences with associated gambling-related harms affecting personal, familial, marital, social, employment and legal functioning. The major effect of excessive gambling is to undermine the financial security, interpersonal trust, stability and marital relationship of a family unit. In contrast to alcohol and illicit substance abuse, there are no observable external signs identifying the presence of excessive gambling leaving parents, spouses and children unaware of the extent of the problem until a crisis leads to its disclosure. Recognizing the potential for harm, governments and gambling operators have a responsibility to implement public health oriented harm-minimisation measures designed to minimize excessive gambling behaviour and its negative outcomes across all strata of the general population.