What is Gambling?

Lindsey Taylor, Education & Training Lead (Devon and Cornwall), Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, writes about common misconceptions about gambling.

Do you know what Gambling is? Are you sure?…

This might seem a silly question to ask – it might seem obvious. People in my training and workshops often give examples of ‘traditional’ types of gambling. These include betting on the horses, poker, bingo, arcades and football accumulators. We also tend to think of ‘gambling’ in very black and white terms. Is it a form of gambling, yes or no?

Online Gambling

But now there are also online options via computers and smart phones. Most traditional high street gambling companies have also moved online, as well as many more online only companies. Websites, games, online casinos and apps allow access to multiple gambling accounts 24/7. Gambling has evolved into something which looks and feels a bit different. Now we must consider the time people spend online gambling, particularly during COVID-19. We must consider how easy it is to access, how many options there are and how young people are gambling online.

Some online options aren’t currently regulated as gambling, which makes it easy for young people to gamble without realising it or understanding the risks.

Common Misconceptions

Some common misconceptions about gambling are ‘you need to win or lose money for it to be gambling’, ‘the National Lottery isn’t gambling’, ‘you are bound to win at some stage’ and ‘children can’t gamble’. The definition of gambling is ‘To stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance’. It doesn’t matter what form gambling comes in, the process is the same – you are risking money or something of value (including time) hoping you will gain something at the end – but you don’t know what that is. You might have a good idea, but ultimately you don’t know – there is always a risk.

Children and Young People

In the UK gambling is legal – many forms of gambling are aged 18 and above, but many forms you can access as a child. Most of us would have played the crane grabber or penny pusher machines (which have no minimum age limit) at a fair or carnival, or played a raffle or tombola as a child. You can even gamble at McDonalds on Monopoly.

In some countries gambling isn’t legal and in some religions it isn’t accepted, for example gambling is Haram (forbidden by Islam). Gambling should be fun and safe, however there is always a risk that you could lose or it could affect your life in a negative way if you gamble too much. Most people’s first response is to refer to money, but someone in recovery from problem gambling recently told me ‘I always say losing the time spent gambling is my biggest regret – I should have been educating myself, progressing at work or spending quality time with the kids’. And sometimes we do gamble without realising it, in particular with our children around us.

Recent research also has shown links between early exposure to gambling through adverts or parental gambling, and problem gambling in later life.

A Hidden Addiction

55,000 11 to 16 years olds are classed as Problem Gamblers. A further 87,000 are at risk of becoming a Problem Gambler.

Harmful gambling is often secretive – it’s known as the ‘hidden addiction’. It can be hard to tell when someone is addicted to gambling, without physical signs like there can be with substance or alcohol misuse. This means that family and friends may not know when someone is struggling. But there are warning signs and impacts to look out for like:

  • lying
  • becoming isolated
  • becoming withdrawn
  • committing crime
  • missing school, college or work.

And the impacts aren’t always financial. Problem gambling can affect mental health, relationships and overall wellbeing. It can also affect people around the problem gambler. Ara Gambling Service provides support for their affected family and friends.

At the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme we run free workshops for young people and free training for adults around Gambling Harm Awareness, and how to talk to someone about gambling.

If you would like to learn more about:

  • understanding gambling and problem gambling
  • online gaming and gambling
  • warning signs of problem gambling
  • free support services available

Feel free to book onto an online session. This can be accessed by visiting the page below or by emailing aragamblingservice@recovery4all.co.uk.

For more information visit our Young People’s Service page.

Ara is a trusted partner of GamCare.