Humans are hedonists by nature, Our brains are wired to seek pleasure as much as possible, until we have too much of it, get bored, and we turn the page.
But what happens when the feeling of pleasure appears only when we are on the verge of not knowing what will happen next, instead of the outcome? Is in that turning point where we seek the feeling of “getting into the zone” at all cost, we are in fact entering the realm of addiction..
Gaming operators know how to capitalize that state of mind and have invested to replicate the conditions in their gambling forms to keep their customers in their “zone”. Unfortunately this has become an effective model where reinforcement and frequency rates have proved to be the keys for gaming addiction.
How an Addictive Habit Starts
As creatures of habits, we try to keep to what works best for us. Feeling good after making and winning a bet reinforces the idea that gambling is pleasant. Winning after winning the gambling concept gets anchored until we end doing it for the excitement rather than the outcome.
Depending on how proportionally risk-reward ratio in the gambling patterns increases, so does the problem gambling risk, as the brain degenerates seeking frequent rewarding to keep the “feel-good” momentum while at the same time dopamine receptors create resistance to the same stimulus. Essentially, our brains get numbed to dopamine and tricks us to seek higher risk to have again that same initial rush.
In severe and chronic cases, problem gamblers are completely devoid of time, money and even physiological needs. Being completely deluded from reality, problem gamblers only seek to access a state of mind rather than a game experience. A behavior that is no different for a narcotic addict, and recognized as such after being inducted in the DSM-5 as an addictive disorder.
Popular vs Addictive: Rate of Reinforcement and Frequency
Addiction is a process that, with exception of hard drugs and the biology of very specific individuals does not turn you into an addict at the first try. In the case of gambling activities it will depend on the exposure to the following factors: reinforcement rate and frequency.
Reinforcement in gambling comes with the pleasure of getting rewarded. The rate of reinforcement will depend on the positive outcomes presented, thereby, how balanced is the proportion of risk vs reward, makes favorable or not the possibility of addiction. for the brain, low risks and bigger rewards or high risk and low rewards eventually becomes less interesting (or boring) to pursuit.
However, at higher risk and higher rewards, the higher rates of reinforcement becomes a prevalent factor for gambling addiction. Interestingly with higher rates of near misses there is also a reinforcement as we seek (or chase) opportunities to get rewarded, leading us to the second factor; frequency.
Frequency becomes the rate of intervals between a gamble and another, The larger interval between gambling events the more popular a gamling activity as players will be more likely to have consistent levels of dopamine between bets
When the frequency is higher.we get locked into continuous cycles of dopamine spikes that make rewarding secondary, and becoming addictive.
Addiction Risk of Gambling Forms
While every gambling form has the potential of becoming addictive under the right circumstances (stress, alcohol/drug abuse, promotive surroundings) and based on the frequency and reinformetrate variables the following description determine which gambling forms are more addictive.
An increasingly popular game, bingo can be considered a quicker and more socially involved form of Lottery where player must complete a numbered card according to the drawn numbers Compared to regular lotteries it has a higher rate of reinforcement and higher frequency rates as games are called every 20 minutes on average. Certain variants like five-in-line speeds up the game, increasing its addictive rate.
Popular casino casino games such as blackjack, roulette and baccarat have been a favorite among players of all nations. With the exception of card counting on blackjack there is very little to be done in order to increase the reinforcement rate against these games. Being designed to have a large edge over players, the games also hold higher frequency rates. thereby become a potential hazard for more susceptible individuals.
Deemed the crack cocaine of gambling, is not an unjustified moniker. Gaming machines, specially slots, are designed to promote persistent gambling behaviors. Having marketed at several casino sites that accept credit cards, and disguising losses with light and sounds, their gaming intervals are in the realm of seconds between bets making them highly addictive for players.
Despite the game being extremely difficult to win the big prize, its near miss rates and long interval between events are enough to reinforce the need for players to keep seeking their next opportunity. Other higher frequency lottery forms such as keno and scratch cards have also higher reinforcement rates with small prizes but holding higher risk of addiction.
Proposition bets / sportsbet
Although not restricted to sport and races, proposition bets once holded one of the lowest frequency rates, because in order to reach an outcome this must depend on a particular action in certain events. However, the normalization of gambling associated with sports have created a much larger reinforcement rate.with increased frequency as, the possibility reach numerous events worldwide, along with in game betting have been another common form of problem gambling.
Games with a large skill compound have lower reinforcement as the gap between skill and reward is strongly dependent. Gambling disorder appears when there is an established rate of reinforcement (mostly by luck) and losing streaks start to manifest because of the same skill component. Once a player starts to chase loses, it becomes a one-way ticket to addiction.
Online and Mobile Gaming
Online and mobile gambling had steadily increased in popularity. As the most readily available platform for gambling, frequency and intensity of sessions increases with the possibility of having multiple gambling forms operating at the same time with almost immediate results bet after bet thanks to gaming software.
Another key feature with online gaming addiction is detachment of real money value. Turning money into credits or virtual chips promotes a lesser awareness of the risk and loss taken; making even the most risk-averse a thrill seeker. Problem gambling also appears in social gambling where (theoretically) you are not risking money, but with similar neural patterns being created because of the reinforcement, the risk is always latent.
Problem gambling lurks on every gambling form as is within ourselves the capabilities of turning its joys into addiction. Preventative measures must be excessive at all times, like imposing time and money limits, and even self-excluding ourselves from gambling to prevent losing something more than money.
While fewer things compare like the excitement of winning with our last credit against all odds. But those situations come very sparse and shortly, and we must be fully conscious of it before the feeling of getting away with crime traps you with its illusion.