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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 2016 Scottish Health Survey indicate that one in 100 Scottish adults (1.0% of the adult population, equivalent to around 45,000 people) were problem gamblers based on either the DSM V score or on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) score. A further 1.2% were identified as moderate risk gamblers based on their PGSI score, an estimated 54,000 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. They can also experience financial difficulties and relationship problems which impact on their overall wellbeing. Problems with gambling can often co-exist alongside other health problems and it is recognised as a public health concern.

Page last updated: 02 November 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014