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Why Do People Gamble

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Past-time or Addiction: What is Gambling and Why Do People Gamble?

For some Brits, gambling is a fun past-time, but for others, the very acct of wagering can become a destructive habit.

Whatever its definition, one undeniable gambling fact is that it’s a booming industry. The Gambling Commission reports that the total gross profit from FOBTs in U.K. betting shops in 2012 was £1.42 billion. Couple that number with profit from horse races, the National Lottery and other betting sources, and gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Brief History of Gambling

Despite the prominence of modernized betting machines and posh betting shops, gambling’s history hearkens back thousands of years. Evidence of a lottery-type game tracing back to 2300 B.C. has been unearthed in China, and ancient forms of keno slips from about 200 B.C. have been reported in the same country. In 17th century Italy, we find the earliest evidence of gambling houses that are strikingly similar to today’s casinos.

All in Good Fun? Reasons People Gamble

The BBC reports that the average U.K. Household spent £166 on various forms of gambling in 2014. While this doesn’t seem a large number, that’s more than households spend going to the cinema and museums combined. So the big question is: Why do people gamble?

Whether you’re betting on a horse race or playing a game of blackjack with your mates, gambling often starts innocently enough. The simple thrill of anticipation and possibility of a cash payout is what drives some to gamble, but for others, reasons are more complex.

Gambling as an Income Source

Sometimes, gambling is seen as a viable option if a bill is due but money is short. The possibility of a big payout can be tantalising, but gambling in order to fill in gaps in your income can result in an even bigger financial hole and a vicious cycle with gambling in the centre. In many cases, the theoretical money that can be won via gambling becomes one’s saving grace.

To better illustrate this concept, consider the fact that those who reside in boroughs with high unemployment levels place gambling machine bets in excess of four times more than those who reside in richer rural areas, as reported by the Guardian. These numbers give more weight to the idea that gambling functions primarily as a way to earn money when one’s wages simply aren’t enough.

Gambling as a Symbol of Status

But not all who gamble do it for the payout, per se. High betting rates are also seen in urban cities among individuals from all walks of life, further complicating the question of what makes people gamble. Films and television shows frequently paint the picture of high rollers as charming, well dressed individuals who command respect; thus, gambling may seem attractive to those who aspire to climb the social ladder and achieve greatness.

Gambling as a Coping Mechanism

There is another way of thinking about gambling, that it serves as an escape from one’s humdrum daily routine. Further, gambling can be a welcome distraction for those suffering from depression, anxiety or stress, or who have recently experienced the death of a loved one or another traumatic life event. It is these individuals, those who use gambling as a way to leave their cares behind in exchange for the thrill of a winning ticket, who often find that gambling turns into a destructive habit.

The Staggering Numbers

No matter what makes people gamble, for some individuals, gambling evolves from harmless fun to habit to addiction in short order. From the National Lottery, the most popular form of gambling in the U.K., to betting on horse races, about two-thirds of Britain’s adults will have a flutter this year, reports the Health and Special Care Information Centre (HSCIC). The majority of those individuals will not make gambling a habit, but a HSCIC survey found that problem gambling occurs in about one person per 100.

If you are gambling excessively or placing bets in excess of your financial means and cannot stop on your own, you may benefit from gaming rehabilitation.