Since the dawn of gambling, where ancient civilisations would offer their wares, betting on all manner of occasions, from animal races to sporting events, and since the first recognised casino houses, men have pitted their wits or put their faith in the gods in an attempt to increase what little money they had, or to regain what they had previously lost.
Of course you can reach far back into ancient times to recognise the influence of Asian and Egyptian cultures, where gambling on peoples lives and the outcome of sporting events in large arenas was common, as was the use of knuckle bones as dice. Casino houses nowadays provide a more modern background. Said to be of Italian origin dating back to the 1700s, and made popular by the Americans who first experienced casino houses back in the 1800s, they have now become a popular feature of city entertainment throughout the modern world.
Gambling itself is deeply embedded in many cultures and civilisations. From the Far East to the Western Worlds, whether simply tossing a coin to decide a fate, or offering odds on sporting results, gambling is inherent in us all. In the UK alone 300,000 people are said to have a gambling addiction with some 6.5% of these related to casino gambling.
But what is it about gambling that makes it so addictive. For example, is winning at casino games all about the money? Of course, it is the ultimate aim for any player to depart with as much of the Casino club’s cash as possible, and for most amateur players the aim is to at least come away without losing too much of your salary. But really casino addiction can be more about the feeling and the euphoria of winning rather than the actual cash prize gained.
It is this state of euphoria which is said to be the main cause of gambling addiction rather than the chance of increasing your profits. Most top gamblers, that is, most gamblers who play with big money, do not necessarily need the prize money on offer. Many stars who currently earn millions of pounds each year are heavy poker players and casino gamblers themselves, and do not necessarily need the money. Of course winning one million pounds in a casino, for example, will change most peoples lives, and would be gratefully received by anyone with any degree of wealth, but there are many big gamblers out there who are losing thousands of pounds per night, just content with the thrill of playing, and addicted to the adrenalin highs and lows that can be experienced when gambling at a casino. The social element and the feeling of escapism are two other ingredients that can fuel gambling addiction. TV and films have also gone some way to promote a glamorous feel to the industry.
Researchers from the Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit at Manchester University UK are investigating decision making strategies in order to discover why pathological gamblers feel the need to gamble, usually in an uncontrolled way and usually in spite of previous heavy losses.
They are also investigating what brain areas may be involved in the creation of these decision-making strategies. They are also interested in brain areas involved in the urge to gamble, the precursor to the act of gambling.
Pathological gamblers appear to have different decision making strategies in certain situations compared to non gamblers, for example, when faced with choices which have delayed rewards as opposed to instant gratification. These decision-making strategies are thought to contribute or cause pathological gambling behaviours.
The turnover from gambling in the UK is said to be around £42 billion per year. Over £1.5 billion of this goes to the government in taxes. And while the UK government’s new gambling commission are looking at ways to ensure that gambling is conducted in a child friendly, crime free manner, the recent proposals and changes make it easier to join casinos. The government proposals are also said to allow the construction of las vegas style gambling resorts in the UK. So while gambling is something we may all love to do on occasion, the addiction itself is a big problem. However, with the recent casino proposals the government seem as addicted to providing gambling solutions as much as the UK population are addicted to gambling itself.