Gambling: introduction

There are many forms of gambling legally available in Great Britain. These range from the National Lottery to online gambling and include many different types of activities, from playing bingo to betting or gambling on slot machines or casino table games.

Many people gamble without experiencing any adverse consequences, but some people experience extreme difficulties with their gambling behaviour, spending more time and money gambling than they would like or can afford. These individuals, their families and friends and broader communities can experience a range of harms as a result of their engagement in gambling.

Problem gambling is defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistics Manual V (DSM V) as an addictive disorder. Figures from the 2014 Scottish Health Survey indicate that almost one in 100 Scottish adults (0.8% of the adult population, equivalent to around 36,000 people) were problem gamblers based on either the DSM V score or on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) score. A further 1.5% were identified as moderate risk gamblers based on their PGSI score, an estimated 67,000 adults.

Problem gamblers experience a range of adverse health outcomes, ranging from depression, anxiety, poor physical and mental health and in the most extreme cases increased risk of suicide. Problem gambling can often co-exist alongside other health problems and it is recognised as a public health concern.