Gambling has a magnetic draw for many people. It’s no secret that some get themselves in trouble by gambling too much or too often. Others succumb to gambling addictions where they can’t help but bet paycheck after paycheck.
So, with people blowing their entire savings in the casinos, what is it that keeps them coming back? Why would anyone want to keep going when they’ve mostly experienced negative results?
Not only is the promise of a big win a popular reason why people gamble, but there are actually physical reactions in our brains that make it difficult to keep away. Our brains react in a way to gambling that makes us excited and keeps us coming back.
Initially, you might think that people only gamble frequently because they hope to win a lot of money. Casinos, online games, and the Best Slots give people the chance to change their circumstances with a single bet. It’s a variation on the many rags-to-riches stories so popular in our culture.
This is actually not the main reason frequent gamblers are drawn to casino games.
Natasha Schull, a professor in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, researched people with gambling addictions to learn about their thought process as they continue to gamble at an unhealthy level even when they frequently lose.
What she found was that people gambled excessively because of the way they felt while gambling. The wins and losses actually had very little to do with why they continued to play. One person that she spoke with actually said that they were frustrated when they’d win big because it would interrupt the flow of the game and would take them out of “the zone.”
In gambling circles, the zone refers to the trance-like state of mind where the troubles of daily life and their surroundings fall away. All that matters is the rhythm and flow of the game.
Schull’s study specifically focuses on people who are addicted to gambling machines, not to social gambling games that take place at a table or in a chat room. Despite the specific audience, this provides some insight into the minds of compulsive gamblers.
Gambling can trigger our brains to release chemicals that make us happy and excited. These chemicals include dopamine, adrenaline, and endorphins.
In a survey of 5,500 gamblers, participants cited “winning big” as their top reason to gamble with “it’s fun/exciting” as the second-highest reason. This could also provide some insight into why people continue to gamble even when they are not doing well.
While winning a lot of money is ideal, it is not a make-or-break factor for most gamblers. As long as they are still having fun while they lose, they don’t mind it as much. Most people go into a casino or an online casino with a number in mind that they are willing to lose. They have an expectation that they are going to lose that money, but they go anyway.
When players go into a game expecting to lose, they are pleasantly surprised when they win. A win is not an expectation, it’s an unexpected bonus on top of the fun that they’re already having playing the game.
The risk and reward involved in gambling triggers your brain to release adrenaline and endorphins. These chemicals keep your heart pumping and your mind racing. As long as your brain continues to produce them, you will continue to have a good time, regardless of the results of the game.
In one study, participants who were told to expect loss but who then received a win showed increased activity in the areas of the brain that produce dopamine. Dopamine makes people feel more euphoric and compulsive, leading to more gambling.
Is it Healthy?
Gambling has the power to become very destructive in the lives of compulsive gamblers. It can rapidly lead to financial instability, which has the power to ruin relationships, careers, and overall mental well-being.
Gambling addiction should be taken very seriously. It is so powerful, that it is actually equated to a chemical addiction. Similar to those with chemical addictions, gambling can be used as a way to reduce stress and create a thrill that helps participants escape their problems and everyday life. In one study, the brain activity tracked in gambling addicts after a win is “very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine.”
While gambling addiction is real and dangerous, gambling itself does not have to be dangerous. For some, it can be a fun, thrilling way to pass the time or seek out entertainment. According to the Mental Health Foundation, there are sensible approaches to gambling.
To ensure that your gambling doesn’t get out of hand, consider these tips:
- Avoid high-stakes forms of gambling.
- Be mindful of the amount of time and money that you spend gambling. Set limits for yourself ahead of time, and stick to those limits.
- Walk away after a big win.
- Never bet more than you can afford to lose.
- Quit playing if you stop having fun. Gambling should not make you feel stressed or anxious. If you have these feelings, walk away from the game.
- Do not let gambling interfere with your responsibilities, relationships, or mental/physical health.
It is important to keep these factors in mind whether you are playing in a physical casino or a game through an online casino. Online gambling has become incredibly popular in recent years with the proliferation of sites like Slots.lv or OCG . It can be more difficult to set boundaries with online gaming because it is available in your own home at any time of day.
No matter where you’re playing, never forget that these games are designed to bring in a profit. They’re designed to put you in the zone and make you feel happy enough to keep playing. Gambling responsibly and in moderation can be a fun, entertaining way to pass time. But, you must always be mindful of the impact gambling is having on your life.