Gambling is all about chemistry in your brain

Sports & Recreations → Casino-Gaming

  • Author Giorgi Mikhelidze
  • Published March 15, 2020
  • Word count 977

Over time, gambling has developed itself from the fun activity for the rich only, to something that nowadays is widely accessible, sometimes without even leaving home. Say casino and some will portray a grand venue in downtown Las Vegas or a local, smaller gambling spot, while the others might think of one of many online betting websites present on the internet. Whichever of them you think of, the concept will certainly spark the image of flashing lights, colorful design, diverse community, and a big number displayed quite visible, indicating the jackpot.

While casinos were dedicated almost exclusively to the rich or were hidden in downtown bar basements, now they are open to anyone. A range of venues, as well as websites, offer their customers a chance of netting big numbers in a blink of an eye. Gambling legislation is being liberalized quickly as well. Every US state, other than a couple of exceptions, allow betting activities in some form. Moreover, the figures show that 80% of Americans have at least once in their lives gambled in some way.

The mass introduction of online gambling was a real breakthrough for the industry. It has led to the skyrocketing statistics worldwide, with an estimated 4.2 billion people worldwide gambling at least once per year.

Why do people keep gambling?

Many prominent researchers and experts in different fields are constantly investigating the factors that keep so many people captivated in front of slot machines. Approaches are different and researches are conducted with varying intentions. Some claim that the biggest component of any casino, whether it is a physical venue or an online space is the environment. It has long been known that the way things are designed affects our decision-making ability and determines our perception of different phenomenons. However, more actively than ever before, scientists are claiming that the connection between the human brain and gambling is very tight.

Environment and how it affects our actions

Physical gambling venues discovered the powers of design quite some time ago. By limiting natural sunlight and increasing artificial flashing glows, casual casino-goers stay there for longer periods. Moreover, online casinos are also implementing design elements that contribute to soaring traffic flows and the overall time spent on a particular platform. A number of other tiny details about casinos and their environment change the way we act. However, part of our bodies that comprehends the information and makes us behave as we do is our brain.

What is the connection between our brains and gambling?

The human brain identifies pieces of information and stimulates specific parts of itself in response. Organic chemicals - hormones and neurotransmitters are released, serving different purposes. In this case, the neurotransmitter dopamine is the subject of focus - well known as the neurotransmitter of happiness. It usually is released during pleasurable activities, for example, while eating, having sex or consuming drugs. Besides these, dopamine becomes active when the anticipation for the uncertain result is high. Yes, just like during gambling. When all the eyes are on the big prize and expectations are high, dopamine is quickly released in significant doses. The research even stated that the process is similar to the way it works for drug consumers, including the areas of the brain that become particularly active. The spirit of potentially winning is not only caused by our brains but as mentioned above, it is stimulated by a complex system of environmental factors. Visuals, colorful designs, flashing lights as well as sounds attract players and boost their excitement levels.

Surprisingly, turns out that the prospective win of a jackpot is not the only or even the biggest stimulator for our brains. Losing in different ways also causes the release of dopamine, sometimes even in bigger volumes than when winning. Researchers in this field observed different scenarios of losing, how they affect our future actions and what use the casino owners make out of them.

Slot machines’ magic

The increased popularity of casual-gambling and as well as online betting led to a transformation of traditional facilities. Casinos have recently stopped using outdated slot machines with mechanical arms and fewer options. As a replacement, they have been introducing new digital ones with more colors, animations and most importantly with more lines. Multiple-line slot machines give players more options to catch a win. However, with them, it also is more likely to lose, considering the high number of lines. Consequently, gamblers that are actually losing on most of the lines, get distracted by the buzzing lights, visuals, and sounds on the winning ones. This makes them think that the overall result is positive and continues playing with the intention to net more. The way the brain perceives information is quite unique and this is well-used by leading casinos to boost dopamine release among the customers and keep them in their venues longer. At a glance, an unbelievable phenomenon represents the reason behind many of the changes and innovations the gambling industry is constantly implementing.

Almost winning is more exciting than actually winning

Have you ever approached a slot machine, or spun it online, running short by a single strawberry or the lucky seven to net the exciting amount of bucks? Well, this is not a coincidence. With the rise of digital slot machines, casino owners have more control over how they work than before. Unlike old mechanical ones, digital slot machines can be programmed to deliver different results in specific cases. The phenomenon is known as a near-miss, almost-win or near-hit and occurs quite frequently to slot machine users. Such a moment, when the win is close but has still been missed, undoubtedly causes unpleasant feelings among the gamblers. However, turns out that almost winning contributes to the release of dopamine almost as much as actually winning. Despite the disappointment, it still makes players stay with the machines longer with expectations of prospective win.

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