Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves wagering something of value (money, possessions or personal property) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the intent of winning. This may be done in a wide variety of settings and with materials other than money, such as marbles, collectible game pieces, pogs, lottery tickets, scratchcards or betting on sports events or elections.

Research in the past has linked gambling addiction to a range of problems, including substance abuse, mental health difficulties and family issues. Despite this, a number of studies have exhibited inconsistent results and the effectiveness of treatments has varied widely. This may be due to different underlying assumptions about the etiology of pathological gambling and differences in conceptualizations of gambling-related harm.

A comprehensive definition of harm is critical to future interventions. This paper develops a functional definition of gambling related harm that will allow its measurement consistent with standard epidemiological protocols used in public health, while accounting for the impact of comorbidities. It also introduces a taxonomy of harms experienced by people who gamble, their affected others and the broader community based on a social model of health.

Several factors may contribute to the development of gambling disorders, including genetic and environmental influences, and a complex neurobiological basis. In fact, a recent study of brain scans showed that the reward circuits involved in drug addiction and gambling are similar. These findings support the theory that gambling disorder is a neurobiological condition that affects the brain and requires treatment.