Understanding of gambling addiction is one of the growing fields of the last ten years. It is this last decade that has driven our understanding of gambling and the reasons for it. We can’t ever truly know why people get addicted to gambling, but some of the following list may represent some possibilities for some people. Not all answer will be relevant to everybody.
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Availability of Gambling
Gambling is more available than ever before. From a young age (18 in most cases), we can purchase scratch cards and lottery tickets. The glitz, colour and sounds of fruit machines are a big draw and some people travel to Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and all over the world to get their fix. Horse racing odds, football pools, card games and bingo – the list is endless. For the majority of people, gambling is a harmless pastime. Some people may be addicted because there is so much of it around.
For others it is a matter of routine and they don’t know how to break it. We know that humans are creatures of habit. Daily rituals, even those that make no sense to anybody else, are a big motivator. When out of control, these habits are in danger of becoming pathological conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. Some people simply become addicted because they have formed a habit – there is nothing neurological as there is with a drug, but simply because it has become routine.
The Promise of Untold Riches
Some get trapped by the promises of gambling. This is particularly true in fruit machines and casino design where players are surrounded by bells, whistles and ringing noises. All of these things act as a trigger on the dopamine centres of the brain, triggering the reward and – perhaps the “Fear of Missing Out” too. The idea that you could be the next big winner is a massive draw for why some people may become addicted to gambling.
The Glitz and Glamour
Similar to above, this is more about the ego massage than it is about the fear of missing out. Gambling entices us; it puts us on a pedestal and tells us we’re special. It’s our confidence and our arrogance telling us that we deserve this. Advertisers use similar methods in selling luxurious products. It is the devil on our shoulder saying “go on, you know you deserve it!” We want to feel glamorous, special and important in a way we perhaps don’t get in other areas of life.
Low Self Control
Some people get addicted to gambling because they don’t know when to stop. Some people gamble because they enjoy it, set a budget and stick to it (having no problem in sticking to it). Some others spend a little too much and feel that they may have a problem if they don’t check themselves once in a while. These people may not be addicted, but they could be on their way there. Others simply do not know when to stop.
The bane of all gamblers is what is called “Gambler’s Fallacy” and a rigid belief in it drives people onward. It is the thing that drives many to carry on even after continuing severe losses. What is it? Simply that we have lost so much, so often, that we must be due a win any time soon. The problem is that our gambling run has no “memory” and the law of averages rarely applies over short bursts and periods like this. Given long enough, our win/loss ratio might even out, but nobody has that much cash that they can carry on.