The prevalence of gambling has increased in recent years, mainly thanks to the internet and smartphones meaning that people can play slot machines or bet on sports matches a lot more easily than ever before. As a result, the gambling industry has grown exponentially. We are now unable to watch TV in watershed hours without seeing at least one advert for gambling. Though the regulated industry does generate a lot of income for the economy, it is highly criticised for seemingly capitalising on vulnerable people who are susceptible to gambling addictions. This is a unique problem that many other business sectors don’t face. So, what exactly makes online gambling addictive? Why does this activity need to be more heavily regulated than others? Keep reading to find out more.
The main reason why gambling is addictive is because it affects the chemicals in our brain. Most people know about dopamine – the ‘happy’ hormone. This is partly responsible for stimulating the reward system in our brains, encouraging us to complete certain activities that are key to our survival. For example, our bodies release dopamine when we eat food, to encourage us to consume the energy we need to live. This is known as reinforcement. Dopamine aids both positive or negative reinforcement, especially when it comes to rewards or withholding of rewards. That’s why gambling is addictive. People receive a huge rush of dopamine if they manage to win a money prize and they will keep chasing this high over and over again, no matter how much they lose. In fact, as prizes are few and far between with gambling, this actually makes it more addictive through operant conditioning. As our bodies become addicted to the oscillations of dopamine, we can even experience withdrawal symptoms after quitting gambling.
Safe and Responsible Gambling
Though online gambling does not necessarily affect our physical health, it can still have a devastating impact on those addicted. For example, problem gambling often causes financial harm, mental health issues, loneliness, helplessness, and a strain on relationships. As such, the industry has now been forced to put measures into place which help to ensure safe and responsible gambling. Any operators who flout these regulations will be penalised or have their licences revoked. They must go out of their way to track their customer’s behaviour, monitoring whether they are displaying signs of addiction or financial harm. Websites like ManySpins also help to make sure that the industry is more honest and ethical, providing reviews of casinos for customers. Gambling will always exist, and so legislative bodies are doing what they can to create the safest environment possible for everyone.
Where to Find Help
Before finishing this article, we thought that we should mention some good resources for people who are struggling with a gambling addiction or who suspect a loved one is suffering from a gambling addiction. HelpGuide.org provides some useful information if you want to better understand problem gambling, whilst BeGambleAware.org has several helplines and support groups that anybody can access.