There are many potential drivers of gambling participation, including:

Escaping from a high stress environment

For people staying in a hostel, temporary accommodation, or sleeping rough, their immediate surroundings may be a source of significant stress. The noise, lack of privacy, safety and health risks, and lack of control over stimuli around them may drive a need to escape or self-soothe to cope with distress. Gambling venues may provide an environment of relative predictability and comfort.

‘I’ve been in my temporary accommodation for months. I hate it. The window is broken, I can’t get air. There are rats. People banging on my door any time during the night, selling drugs, selling, selling anything. I can’t cook, there’s no kitchen and I have to leave by 9 in the morning. My phones there, available. I can jump on and have a spin whenever I want. Don’t need to pay attention to whats happening out there.’

24/7 access to online gambling

Many people experiencing homelessness have access to an internet device such as a smartphone, and online gambling is available on such devices 24/7. This can provide a distraction from difficult life circumstances, or be used to cope with negative feelings such as fear and anxiety that may be rooted in experience of trauma.

"Your phone is more addictive if you really think about it because you’ll end up spending thousands of pounds and you win nothing back. And you’re like that, where did my wages go to? Pure red-eyed and everything. Like that, ‘How am I gonnae pay for my electricity and messages?"

False hope in gambling to change your life

For people feeling anxious or desperate about their life circumstances, gambling can provide a sense of false hope that a big win could change your life. In that situation, you might think ‘what have I got to lose?’ However, we know that gambling is designed to ensure the house always wins, and harms from gambling can make a desperate situation worse.

“My brother, has never been a gambler at all in his life. Never in his life has he been a gambler. And he got himself into some very heavy debt. And the first thing he done was try to turn forty quid into a bunch more money. Aw, Ive been studying the roulette wheels, ive been studying this, ive been learning this. And Im trying to tell him - but like, you think you have but thats not how it works. He lost the forty quid. He needed to turn forty quid into two thousand pounds and there was no way that was happening. You can turn four grand into two grand gambling. But you can’t turn forty quid into two grand. And that is a guarantee.”

Experiencing wins early can be dangerous

If you win a bit of money when you first start gambling it may seem as if you’ve got the ‘lucky touch.’ You can find yourself chasing that buzz and dopamine hit from that first win.

£500. Thats the most I ever won. Thats it. [when did you win the first £500?] about the first month. The first month of buying scratchcards and then I was over the moon. And everyone since that I was like I'm gonnae win it again, I'm gonnae win it again, and I never won it again so I think the most I ever won after that was easy up to £100 and that was it”

Definition: Legacy harms

Legacy harms are longer-term consequences from gambling that may be experienced even once a person’s engagement with gambling stops. 

Legacy harms can include: 

  • Lifecourse harms substantially change a person’s life such that they may never return to a state of full recovery. For example, losing a job, divorce, or bankruptcy.

  • Intergenerational harms affect future generations. For example, a child missing parental engagement due to their parent’s gambling who then experiences developmental impacts that affect their school, career, and lifetime potential.