Problem Gambling: Why Do Some People Become Addicted And Others Do Not?

Problem gambling causes 1

6 minutes

Posted by: Ivan

Problem Gambling: Why Do Some People Become Addicted And Others Do Not?

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Humans have an inherent desire for risk. Whether it is playing a card game, spinning the reels on a slot machine, or skateboarding, we engage in risky activities daily.

But why do some of us manage to gamble responsibly while others become addicted?

Some people can gamble on and off for years without it ever becoming a problem for them. Others, though, seem to quickly become addicted to slots, poker, and casino table games.

In this article, we’ll look into some of the reasons why this might be the case. Of course, this is an extensive topic, so it’s impossible to fully cover it in a short article. Be that as is it may, it should at least provide you with some insights and give you pointers for further research if this is a topic you’re interested in.

Pros and Cons of Risk-Taking

Risky pursuits are also rewarding, as they trigger the release of dopamine. Taking chances can cause chemical reactions in our body that you can't easily reproduce doing other activities.

When you spend time on a site like, the games engage the same neural pathways as using social media, eating your favorite dish, or having sex. All these things are potentially addictive.

On the one hand, risk-taking helps the human race to advance, as it leads to entrepreneurship and creativity. On the other, constant craving for risk may cause serious issues.

Clearly, taking risks can’t and shouldn’t be completely avoided, but it’s the type of activity that can easily lead to serious issues.

Problem gambling affects around 3% of the global population, which has led many countries to strengthen their gambling laws. Some have gone as far as to ban it completely. Others are taking less drastic measures, such as prohibiting online betting using particular payment methods such as credit cards to protect the most vulnerable.

Gambling and risk-taking

Who Is Predisposed to a Gambling Addiction?

Most of us can place a bet once in a while without serious consequences. However, the World Health Organization recognizes extreme gambling as a disorder. According to the Gambling Commission, the UK alone had 340,000 problem gamblers in 2016.

  • Most problem gamblers are male (women are five times less likely to get seriously addicted), and most of them are unemployed.
  • The typical age range is between 25 and 34.
  • Players from ethnic minorities seem to be the most likely to become extreme gamblers.
  • Addicts are more likely to demonstrate signs of mental illnesses and low well-being.

These stats provide some insights into problem gambling, but they should be approached carefully. Almost everyone can develop a gambling addiction in certain circumstances, and no one is completely protected, regardless of their sex, age, nationality, or social status.

Roots of the Problem

Gambling becomes problematic when it spirals out of control. The same is true for drugs, alcohol, and shopping.

Compulsion is rooted in reward pathways responsible for wanting and liking.

For example, eating chocolate brings delight, so when we see it on a supermarket shelf, we are motivated to buy it. In compulsive gamblers, these systems are rewired.

While wanting is constant, liking weakens, so the individual plays more to get the same pleasure. It could be more poker hands or more (and bigger) spins on a slot, but the underlying motivation is the same.

Some people have a natural predisposition because of lower impulse control. There are also external risk factors. For example, if the gambler is going through a stressful period or has a family member with addictions, they are at a greater risk.

All of these factors can potentially contribute to someone developing a gambling addiction. The biggest problem is that they're often hard to identify or remain ignored, so people who are at greater risk will put themselves in a bad spot, allowing things to spiral out of control.

Roots of problem gambling

Growing Concerns

From March 2018 to March 2019, local gamblers lost around £14.4 billion collectively, and the number of hospital admissions in England grew by over 200% in the second half of the year — even before the pandemic.

The category included residents who committed crimes or demonstrated signs of psychosis related to gambling.

By February 2020, local Google searches for “casinos” had reached an all-time high. In March, online sports betting grew by a whopping 88% and online poker by 53% in comparison with 12 months prior.

According to BBC, the government is planning to open 14 new clinics for problem gamblers by 2023-24. However, given the growing promotion of sportsbooks and casinos, more measures might be required to curb the trend.

With all this in mind, the last piece of advice we will leave you with is to gamble responsibly, always within a limited bankroll, and only do it for fun. If you feel like things are getting out of hand even a little bit, it’s best to take a step back and stop for a while.

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