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Words Matter: Ending the Stigma of Problem Gambling

Published: September 26, 2022

Words matter. They shape how we communicate with and talk about the people who are around us. When it comes to problem gambling, words have too often been used in a way that stigmatizes. 

That’s the finding of a recent study by GambleAware, a responsible gambling nonprofit serving the U.K. The report was written by stigmatization experts Dr. Anne Stangl, Triantafyllos Pliakas, and Mariana Siapka, who reviewed 54 gambling studies and nine review papers published in 19 countries. The researchers found that many studies had used language that could stigmatize or exclude people who might be struggling with gambling. 

Instead of using stigmatizing terms like “gambling addict” or “problem gambler,” the researchers recommended using people-first language that shows that a person with a gambling disorder has a potential health problem, rather than describing the person as a problem themselves. Preferred language is phrases such as a “person with a gambling disorder” or a “person who struggles with gambling.”

“Person-first language helps to reduce the risk of eliciting negative associations or attitudes, or the risk of the person in question feeling blamed,” the report’s authors wrote. 

In addition to using different words, the researchers recommended that more work should be done to educate healthcare professionals on the harms of stigmatizing language. They also said that more people who have real, lived experiences with the harms of problem gambling should be included in future training and research. 

The stigma of problem gambling is like other stigmas associated with a wide range of health conditions, including mental health, drug and alcohol use, cancer, obesity, and HIV, the researchers found. But more training and careful word choices can help reduce stigma over time. 

Knowing more about problem gambling is an important first step in ending the stigma, and Before You Bet can help. Take a two-minute  quiz to gauge your risk, and find more information about responsible gambling at

If you or someone you know might be struggling with a problem with gambling, help is always available from the Problem Gambling Helpline. Trained and understanding specialists are standing by 24/7 to provide free and confidential assistance with no judgment to anyone who needs it. Call at 1-800-589-9966 or text 4HOPE to 741741. 

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