Gambling – How to Protect Yourself From Gambling-Related Harm

Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on horse racing or using the pokies, gambling involves risking something of value (money) on an uncertain event in the hope of winning something else of value. Gambling can occur anywhere including casinos, racetracks and on the Internet.

It is possible to gamble responsibly, but it is important to understand how to protect yourself from gambling-related harm. This includes knowing the ‘odds’ of winning and losing, which are based on probability. People gamble for many reasons – social, financial, emotional or to get a rush or high. Some people even gamble as a way to relieve boredom or stress.

Some people develop a problem with gambling that is more severe than others and need specialist treatment and support. This is called ‘disordered gambling’. Disordered gambling ranges from behaviour that places individuals at risk of developing more serious problems to those who meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Taking steps to reduce your risk of gambling-related harm can help you stop your gambling behaviour. Some of these include: controlling your cash (see the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’), setting a limit on how much you will spend and planning ahead before you gamble. Getting support from family, friends and professional counsellors can also help. You can also try to avoid situations that increase the risk of gambling, such as using credit cards, taking out loans or carrying large amounts of money. You could also consider finding new recreational activities and hobbies to fill the ‘gap’ that gambling can leave behind.