What is gambling?
Gambling means risking the loss of money or something else of value when the outcome of an activity is uncertain - when there is no guarantee that you will win.
Casinos, scratch cards, bingo, fruit machines, sports betting, and the lottery are all kinds of gambling. By law, you have to be 18 or older to take part in these activities, but sometimes younger people do get drawn into gambling. Some activities in gaming – like loot boxes – can lead to harmful gambling too.
What is the impact of gambling?
Gambling can harm your physical and mental health, your relationships with family and friends, how much money you have, your school/college work or your job. These are sometimes called gambling-related harms.
Harms can be experienced by the person that gambles, or by the family, friends, and colleagues of someone who gambles.
Some of the signs of harm are:
- Having less time or money to spend on things you enjoy
- Having reduced savings for big items such as university, holidays, or your first car
- Spending lots of time thinking about gambling, or when you are next going to gamble
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Taking a lot of sick days or days off, or missing extra-curricular commitments
- Relationship problems, or being isolated
How might gambling affect your mental health?
Gambling can affect your mental health in many ways. You might find that you choose to gamble to escape from things that are worrying you or from bad feelings. Here are some of the ways gambling might affect your mental health:
- Feeling withdrawn and not interested in the activities you normally enjoy e.g. sports, arts, music, spending time with friends
- Grades slipping at school or college, or finding it harder to concentrate in lessons
- Feeling worried or upset for no reason
- Getting quickly frustrated
- Feeling hopeless and worried about the future
- Finding it difficult to unwind, relax or sleep well
- Forgetting to eat well because you're worrying about gambling
You might start to notice these effects before you realise the financial impacts.
What thoughts and feelings might I experience?
You might start to experience the emotional effects of gambling regardless of how much or how often you gamble. These feelings might start small but get bigger over time:
- Worrying about the future
- Worrying about money and how you will afford things that you need or, if you have borrowed money, how you will pay this back
- Losing confidence in yourself and your abilities
- Feeling stressed and unable to deal with things
- Feeling easily annoyed with people around you
- Guilt or feelings of regret about how much money or time you have spent gambling
- Feelings of hopelessness and lack of control
Top tips for preventing gambling-related harm
- If you need help or support and are worried you are spending too much time or money on gambling activities, there are services available to help you, listed at the bottom of this page.
- If you are going to gamble, set a money limit and stick to it. If you have bills to pay such as rent, or a phone bill, make sure you are not using money set aside for these. Never borrow money to gamble, there is no guarantee you will be able to pay it back.
- Try to get involved in other hobbies and interests that you enjoy, avoiding gambling becoming the only way you spend your free time.
- Set time limits and make sure you schedule breaks to eat, be active, and get fresh air. This will help you to not get carried away with the time and money you are spending on gambling activity.
- Talk to someone you trust if you are worried. It's better to deal with your problems by asking for help rather than using gambling as a distraction from what might be worrying you.
Is your parent or carer gambling?
If your parent/carer is experiencing gambling-related harm, you might also be affected. They might have less money to buy essential things such as food or clothing or might struggle to pay bills. You might feel that your parent/carer is distracted, secretive, short-tempered or more susceptible to mood swings. If you think you are being affected negatively by the gambling of a parent or carer, there is support available for you, and you won't get them into trouble.