Stigma devalues and discredits people harmed by gambling, so they become ‘them’ rather than ‘us’.
Stereotypes and a lack of understanding causes people to feel deep shame and self-blame. It can stop people from reaching out for help. Stigma is often spoken about as one of the biggest barriers to recovery.
Gambling addiction doesn’t just affect the gambler themselves, it affects the people close to them as well. People close to the gambler can feel guilty by association and blame themselves.
The shame and stigma are made worse by how the gambling industry and the media talk about addiction and harm. The role of the gambling sector in contributing to addiction and causing harm is hidden, and so is the lack of protective regulation. The individual with the gambling difficulty is then often blamed for having that experience and struggling with addiction.
Stigma and blame result in discrimination against those harmed by gambling. It contributes to regulators avoiding making vital changes, as the issue is not treated comparably with other harmful industries.
There are not the same warnings that gambling can be addictive. Preventative laws (like controls on advertising or products) and support are more limited.
There is discrimination in how gambling is dealt with by regulatory bodies, financial services organisations, healthcare services, the education system and the justice system, compared to other issues.
When people harmed by gambling are discriminated against by policies or institutions, this adds to the view that they are to blame and it also adds to the stigma surrounding gambling.
Stigma and discrimination both cause, and add, to gambling harm. Shame damages people’s mental health. It means people often only get help when they hit rock bottom. Discrimination means there are not adequate protections, rights, or services to prevent harm and give help.
Gambling harm is any negative consequence caused by gambling. This harm could impact the person who has gambled or someone close to them. This harm could be related to finances, relationships, mental health or anything else.
As well as damaging individuals, gambling harm creates socio-economic costs to communities, the government, and society.