Addiction is powerful. Most addictions can affect someone on a chemical level, changing the way they process rewards, affecting how they think, and more. Gambling addiction is no different. Even though it does not utilize substances, it has a way of triggering the same reward responses, causing people to follow further and further into addiction.
Gambling addiction also does not occur by accident. Organizations and casinos that allow gambling design their games in ways that help to promote and trigger the addictions. Understanding this can hopefully be the first step towards preventing or breaking free from gambling addiction.
Why Gamblers Get Addicted
Gambling addiction is typically motivated by two experiences and believes:
- The Excitement of Winning
- The Idea You Can Beat the Odds or Beat the Casino
These both create the experience that start the gambling addiction “process.”
Excitement of Winning
Winning is fun. If you take $20, and you play a slot machine, and you win $100, that’s fun. That’s exciting. It’s a feeling that you will likely want to have again. Everything in a casino is designed to make the feeling even more exciting. There are bright lights, sounds, features, and so much more, so that when you win, the experience is amazing.
The excitement of winning is also misleading. It makes you feel like *you* did something. The truth is that gambling is programmed so that you DO win, and win often, but just win slightly less than you lose. Each individual game is different. Card games like blackjack give you about 47% odds of winning, which means that you’re going to have streaks of victories that make you feel like you’re doing something right, almost like getting heads each time.
Slot machines have total payouts that equal slightly less than you put in, so if you were to put $1000 in the slot machine, you’d be expected to win about $950 depending on the machine. But at any moment, you could win hundreds to thousands of dollars. That’s thrilling. You also get free plays, huge animations, and so much more to make winning even more exciting.
Beating the Casino
The belief that you can beat the odds can be even more damaging. In cards, winning streaks can make you feel like there is a secret way to play that increases your odds. But there is no game in a casino where it is mathematically possible to cheat. Playing with a strategy, even when that strategy is given by experts, can – at best – make you lose slightly slower, but still make you lose.
But because you have win streaks – and because you can occasionally walk away with more money than you brought in – it starts to feel like you know what you’re doing, and can come out ahead.
Slot machines are no different. People that lose for a while start to put more money in thinking they are “due.” Slot machines use random number generators, and those random number generators restart every time you press click. That means that, no matter how many times you’ve lost, your next bet is no more likely to win than your previous bet. You can’t beat the casino, even though it feels like just one more bet is all you need to win.
Ending Gambling Addiction
These are all the experiences that start the gambling addiction. Casinos make it possible for you to win as often as possible without ever coming out ahead in the long term, so that you consistently get the excitement of winning and the feeling like you’re doing something different/strategic. In the end, no matter how skilled you are, you will always lose.
If you’ve struggled with gambling addiction, please contact Long Island Psychology, today.