Top Categories

The Psychology of Gambling

The Psychology of Gambling


Gambling refers to a variety of activities whereby people place a value on the outcome of a contest of chance. This type of behavior includes putting something of value at risk, such as money, or the right to a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence. The value placed on the outcome can range from a small amount to a life-changing jackpot.

There is a strong link between gambling and mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. These mood problems can make it difficult for someone to stop gambling, even when it is causing harm. It’s important to seek help if you think you have a gambling problem.

The psychology of gambling involves many factors, including the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is released when you enjoy activities such as eating, sex and drugs, but it also triggers risk-taking behavior, such as in gambling. People who gamble tend to experience greater increases in dopamine than those who don’t, and these surges are reinforcing.

Many people take up gambling as a hobby, social activity or form of entertainment. They may play cards or board games with friends for small amounts of money, place bets on their favorite team, buy lottery tickets or participate in a football pool. Often, these forms of gambling are considered casual and not taken seriously. Gambling is also a huge business, with legal wagering taking place worldwide in casinos and racetracks and through state-operated lotteries and organized football pools.