We asked ChatGPT: “What harms can gambling cause?”

As a first go with ChatGPT we asked:


What harms can gambling cause?


In less than a second it replied:

Gambling can cause a number of harms, including:



  1. Addiction: Gambling addiction is a serious problem that can lead to financial ruin, relationship problems, and a host of other negative consequences. People who become addicted to gambling may find it difficult to stop, even when they are losing money and experiencing negative consequences.
  2. Financial problems: Gambling can lead to financial problems, especially if a person loses more money than they can afford to lose. This can lead to debt, bankruptcy, and other financial difficulties.
  3. Relationship problems: Gambling can strain relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. People who gamble may lie about their activities, neglect their responsibilities, and become emotionally distant from their loved ones.
  4. Mental health problems: Gambling can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, especially if a person is dealing with significant financial losses or addiction.
  5. Criminal activity: Some people may turn to criminal activity, such as theft or fraud, in order to fund their gambling habits.
  6. Health problems: People who gamble may neglect their health, failing to eat properly, exercise, or get enough sleep. This can lead to physical and mental health problems over time.

It’s important to remember that not everyone who gambles will experience these harms, but they are potential risks associated with gambling. If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction or experiencing negative consequences from gambling, it’s important to seek help.

We couldn’t have put it better!

When Gambling, Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Disorders Co-occur

For many, compulsive gambling occurs alongside substance addiction and negative mental health.


We probably can agree with the above statement from our own experience and observing the behaviour of others.

Traditionally for instance there have always been cultures of drinking and gambling. Working class males culture has historically witnessed the close tie between pub and bookies.

These days, as well as alcohol, drugs like cocaine and amphetamines are associated with gambling. Sometimes people who recover from one addiction such as gambling turn to another. This is called cross-addiction. Often addiction to substances and behavioural patterns occur together.


Several research studies suggest that between 50% and 75% of those with gambling addiction also have an alcohol addiction.


At a lower level, alcohol and other drugs lower inhibition and can encourage risky behaviours including gambling.

While we think addiction is and should be recognised as a severe mental disorder unfortunately it generally isn’t. Among many other things this means that there remains a very unsatisfactory approach by services to supporting the whole person. We so often hear of a situation where and individual is told by ‘mental health sercices’ that they cannot help unless addiction is first brought under control, while addiction services are ill-equipped to deal with things like severe depression. An individual may be sent from pillar to post.

Certianly any addiction may lead to or amplify mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. We also know that for many conditions such as anxiety, depression and trauma  may be a root cause of developing an addiction to behavioural activities such as gambling and substance use provide a quick release from suffering, this known as self-medication.

While many can recover from a single addiction quite quickly – and maybe up to a third of people stop with no support whatsoever – the same is not true for many. At worst, a person may have to deal with the fallout of addiction such as debt, ill physical health, family breakdown, involvement with the criminal justice system, unemplyment, and the shame and guilt that come from internalised stigma. If co-occurring addictions and severe mental health issues are added to the profile, the situation is a tangle of complexities which will require a multi-agency support design appropriate to each individual circumstance. Unfortunately, this ‘whole person’ approach is not often evident.

At grassroots level, the immense value of peer support and initiaves from lived experience provides for many the rock upon which recovery can proceed. The learning from this peer-led work in substance harms is of high magnitude and can be shared with those in recovery from gambling harms.There are, for instance, 12-steps groups for people recovering from both gambling and substance addictions. Further, grassroots expertise can contribute to informing and shaping necessary policies and a rethinking of the field of recovery.

We have prepared a discussion document which you can read here.




British Medical Association: response to DCMS consultation

In their response to the Department of Culture, Media and Sports consultation towards a Gambling Act White Paper the BMA calls for a focus on prevention of gambling harms, a cross-government working, a call for fully independent research and treatment, a recognition of the association between gambling and alcohol and smoking, attention to the burden of harms unequally carried by different population sectors, and the need for the NHS to treat gambling disorder in parity with other addictive disorders.

The full response is here.


  1. Executive Summary

1.1 The BMA welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into Gambling Regulation.

1.2 Gambling is a growing public health issue, with the large burden of morbidity and mortality caused by harmful gambling causing increasing alarm in the medical profession.

1.3 Doctors are concerned that the regulation of gambling is inadequate and does not prevent people becoming gamblers or effectively manage those who have developed problems.

1.4 Gambling disorder must be recognised as being as serious and complex a medical problem as other addictions and be able to be treated on the NHS.

1.5 Reports show that 59% of adults in Great Britain had participated in gambling between 2020-2021. Some population groups experience a higher prevalence of gambling: men, young people, black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, and socially deprived groups.

1.6 There is a known link between gambling and behaviours associated with harm, such as drinkingb alcohol and smoking tobacco.

1.7 The BMA suggests four main approaches to better regulate gambling:

o Restricted advertising – to help control exposure, the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) should look further into a range of options ranging from restrictions on gambling advertising through to an advertising ban.

o Independent funding of research and prevention – the current system of voluntary contributions by the gambling industry to a central charity that funds research is not appropriate – instead, there must be a long-term focus on generating independent funding of research and prevention work.

o Focus on prevention – there should be a focus on public health approaches to tackle gambling harms through a combination of prevention methods, including restricted advertising and marketing, restricting licenses and availability, and strengtheningregulatory frameworks.

o Cross government approach – the decision making regarding the regulation of gambling should be made jointly by DCMS and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Research Participants Opportunity

A student at Stirling University is seeking people who have used methods such as self-exclusion, spend caps, cooling-off periods, etc. and how effective they have been found to be.

Kaitlyn Evans  will be carrying out online interviews as part of her research  that will be an hour long and there will be no follow-ups. Anonymity will be ensured. The researcher will send details of her study and the interview procedure to you if you’d like to consider taking part.

To express interest and receive further details please contact Kaitlyn at kae00033@students.stir.ac.uk

Gambling Harms: who sets the agenda?

An article in the British Medical Journal poses the question, “Why are we devising regulations that enable consumers to use dangerous products, rather than preventing their release onto the market?” 

One answer is to do with who has power to shape the narratives and discourses around harmful gambling. 

Generally it is the case that the gambling industry, regulators and most political policy revolves around focus upon individual gamblers. If they encounter harm that is seen as an individual matter. The industry repeatedly draws attention to what it implies is a tiny number of unfortunates who suffer harm. From here, the industry embraces the ‘cure’ as being education, education, education. The industry makes a small voluntary donation to gambling education charities. small in relation to profits, and small in relation to the massive sums spent on advertising.

Nobody can  argue against the need for education. One can, though, query its predominance in discussions about reducing gambling harms. Rather than the dominant narrative’s focus on individuals, those unlucky few, we should work to emphasise the greater importance of commercial, regulatory and political factors. Campaigners do this, public health initiatives do this, many city councils do this, individual politicians do this, increasingly institutional professional bodies such as doctors do this, hundreds of third sector organisations do this. Yet even combined, all this work to shift emphasis to the commercial determinants of health and wellbeing fails sufficiently to challenge the idea that all is generally well and sincere attention is being given to the smalll number of people who are harmed by their own behaviour.

Permeating the agencies of the dominant narrative is a neoliberal ideology which favours a laissez-faire capitalism unhindred by regulations. Closely connected with this is the promotion of extreme forms of libertarianism, found especially in the conservative right wing, which adopts a moral stance based on a right to ‘personal freedom’ and ‘personal responsibility’. All adults, those over the age of 18, it is argued, are the ultimate agents of personal choice. Any interference with this individual freedom – for instance by the ‘Nanny State’ – is seen as a gross curtailment of personal freedom. From this it follows that if we gamble ‘sensibly’ all will be well; if we gamble ‘foolishly’ – well who is to blame but ourselves?

It is not possible to argue against such core beliefs but it is worth emphasising that from them will emerge preferred narratives, evidence seeking agenda and interpretation of evidence.

Opposing such core beliefs and generally cohering around views which see individuals not as separate autonomous atoms but rather as – all of us – deeply implicated in the social, cultural, economic and commercial environments which run through us and largely make us, will continue to challenge the dominant narratives and amass evidence from a wide spectrum of sources, from the voices of lived experience to the refined specialisms of medicine and the sciences.

There is, however, the insidious danger here of too coarse an understanding of environmental factors leading to dehumanisation and annihilation of personal agency. If individuals become empty data in conceptual boxes of ‘deprivation’, ‘disadvantage’, ‘vulnerable’ and so on, we lose sight of the fact that – with very few specific exceptions – individuals in whatever circumstances do have moral agency, do have degrees of power to contribute to and love others, are able to overcome their own and others’ difficulties, and can recover from things like addiction largely based upon this agency. Support – be it from family, friends, community, professionals, charities, recovery movements – is not a ‘magic wand’. Support works with individual agency, not instead of it. It is worth observing here that all difficulties in life are largely overcome by such interaction. The idea of an individual as a totally separate atom of being, alone responsible for their own welfare and that of those around, is absurd.

In recovery movements generally – especially in the fields of addiction and mental health – it has always been the grassroots support movements that have been by far the most important factor of recovery. At the same time, it has been individuals – each with personal agency – who have been the biggest force for bringing about policy changes at higher, institutional levels. Lived experience of real individual people – not empty bits of data – will continue to lead in challenging dominant narratives and shaping new ones based upon justice, human rights and equality.

Campaigning and voices against the dominant narratives and dominant agenda-setting want to shift from virtually total attention on individual (as problem, pathological, abnormal) towards urgent attention to commercial strategies such as saturation advertising, sports sponsorship, micro-marketing aimed not only at identified heavy gamblers but also at those in recovery, and – barely mentioned in much discussion – the design of gambling products deliberately designed to be addicitve.

While the gambling industry is free to fund education programmes, monolithic, conveyor belt support charities, the status quo will be maintained. That is why the call for a 1% levy on industry profits is so vital. For not only will it provide more money it will also provide for continuity of funding, fund genuinely independent research and treatment, and contribute significantly to a clearer overview no longer saturated by ideology which more validly represents the gambling landscape, and dismantles a narrative which serves vested interests and enables their manufacture of harms.

Lower Level Harms and Effect on Wellbeing

The prevalence of exttreme gambling harms – identified as a psychiatric disorder, often referred to as addiction – is given by the Gambling Commission as 0.3% of the population. This is often taken – by the gambling industry, for instance – as an ‘official figure’, set in stone. However, a YouGov poll in 2020 set the figure at 2.7%. Meanwhile research continues to find improved ways of data gathering.

Whatever the figure, what has to be added to that is the on average number of ‘affected others’, those harmed by someone else’s severe gambling issues. The average number of people so affected is six making the number of people suffering severe gambling harms using the two figures above is between 1.8% and 16.2% of the population.

However, focusing only on extreme harms disguises the fact that health harms often occur along a spectrum. Alcohol consumption, for instance, may not receive a diagnosis of alcohol dependence syndome but can be seriously damaging to health and negarively affect people around the drinker. Also, with many risky health  behaviours the midly dangerous often leads to moderately and extremly dangerous over time.

In a British Medical Journal of May 2019 the authors argue, in relation to gambling harms:

Harms from gambling affect health and wellbeing and, even at low risk levels, contribute to a loss of quality of life similar to the long term consequences of a moderate stroke, moderate alcohol use disorder, and urinary incontinence. These low level harms arguably contribute more to aggregate social costs than those from people gambling at problematic levels because of the greater population numbers experiencing them.

The impact of gambling behaviours below levels identified as extreme or severe, in other words, can and does bring significant reductions in wellbeing to self and others. The nature of this impact will vary across the thousands or millions of individual stories about ‘lower level’ gambling harms.




2023: Looking Back and Forward

We’ve taken the opportunity at the turn of the year to look back to how we started in 2017 with The Machine Zone, and a quick look forward.

We now run five websites which may be confusing. It certainly confuses us! So maybe this page will make things a little clearer. There will be a sixth website soon too! We’ll be hosting our film One Last Spin on its own super-duper website when it is released into the public domain.

Thank you so much to everyone for all the support, encouragement and inspiration that have kept us going. Some days it’s easy to think we’re getting nowhere but there’s always someone in one network or another to bring good news. Whatever the new Gambling Act brings we will all be continuing to do our bit to reduce gambling harms.

The Mood of the Nation

A report published today (7 November) describes stark impacts of the cost of living crisis on Scots

It shows increasing issues around physical and mental health and changes in spending behaviours


Conducted by media and marketing companies Union and 56 Degree Insight a survey of a thousands people, adjusted to reflect a representative portion of the population reveals widespread distress and changes in living.

Union’s announcement of the report comes with this:

The report strongly suggested that there is now a sense of ‘permacrisis’ taking hold amongst the general population; the pandemic, Brexit, inflation, Ukraine, Westminster instability and the energy crisis have all created a poisonous, potent and toxic cocktail for the average Scot.


Union summarises the report’s main points:

The key findings

  • Spike in national anxiety and stress:89% of people living in Scotland expressed serious concerns about the cost of living. 69% reported economic anxiety impacting on mental health including more than a third struggling to sleep at night.
  • Scots having less fun?:Scots are drinking less as they cut back, by almost 25%, and 21% are gambling less. Interestingly, 26% of Scots report that they are having less sex. It would seem this economic crisis really is a buzz killer.
  • A nation consumed by worry:54% Scots worrying to a major extent on how to pay bills and over four in ten significantly worried on how to put food on the table.
  • Cut-backs and delays:Families are significantly cutting back, with 88% of households earning £30-£40K the most concerned by rapid increases in outgoings. Cost cuttings include spending less on new clothing (55%), delaying holiday decisions (45%) and eating out less (57%). 39% expect to spend less on Christmas gifts.
  • Personal care takes a hit as wallets tighten:37% will get their hair cut less and less cosmetic procedures like botox and fillers (11%, rising to 21% in image conscious Southern Scotland).
  • Changing behaviour:80% of women were changing shops (some or all of the time) and 88% are shifting to less expensive products and brands.

Read the report here: Mood-of-the-Nation_Report

Tackling Gambling Stigma: share your story

The team at tacklinggamblingstigma.com is inviting people to share their story of harms from their own or someone else’s gambling.

This would be via an informal chat with a researcher by telephone or in person at your convenience.

We are interested in people of all backgrounds and difficulties of any kind or size linked to gambling. No matter what your
story is, where you are from, or what the gambling harm has been, you are the person we want to talk to.

Full details in the flyer and infographic

Tackling Gambling Stigma Interview Infographic

Tackling Gambling Stigma Flyer