Gambling is the risking of something of value (such as money or property) on an event that involves chance. It can also involve an element of skill and strategy, but these factors are often discounted in gambling. The practice is widespread and can have a range of personal, social, and financial consequences. For some people, it can lead to addiction, and a gambling problem can have a significant impact on health, relationships and performance at work or study. It can even lead to homelessness and suicide.

There is a growing consensus that gambling can have significant negative effects on individuals, families and society. These include health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression, family breakdown, poor performance at work or study, debt and bankruptcy and crime [1]. The economic costs of gambling are considerable – it is estimated that the burgeoning gambling industry in Australia and the UK cost the economy over $1 trillion in 2011.

In addition, there is evidence of a high prevalence of gambling-related harms among young people. This is partly a consequence of the increased advertising and marketing of gambling activities targeted at adolescents. Specifically, these marketing campaigns are based on socio-cultural constructs such as rituals, mateship, winning and success, social status and thrill and adventure.

These constructs lend themselves well to a practice theory framework which emphasises the emergence of behaviours as part of socially normative practices that are shaped and reshaped by social, environmental and economic influences. Moreover, they are incorporated into the everyday experiences of people and become embedded within cultures of gambling that can be difficult to challenge.

Gambling is heavily marketed to youths in various ways, including through social media. A recent study of gambling marketing on Twitter aimed at adolescents found that these marketing messages are influenced by social group dynamics, especially power hierarchies and the perception of how others gamble. This suggests that there is an urgent need to explore how these social structures influence young people’s gambling habits.

A number of strategies have been suggested to reduce the harmful effects of gambling. These include limiting the amount of money that can be spent on it, not using credit cards or borrowing to gamble, and staying away from places where gambling is advertised. It is also helpful to develop a support network and try to find other recreational activities. In particular, it is recommended that anyone with a gambling problem seeks help from a specialist service provider. For example, a counsellor or psychologist can be a good source of advice and can offer practical strategies to overcome problems, such as addressing any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to the gambling behaviour. Alternatively, a group such as Gamblers Anonymous can be of great help. Lastly, it is important to recognise that giving up gambling can be hard and that you should be prepared for the occasional lapse. If you do experience a lapse, then it is a good idea to speak to a friend or family member about your problem.