Contributed by Thitapa Shinaprayoon, PhD, Department of
Psychology, University of Georgia
Around 2012, I had a chance to interview gamblers in Georgia, US as a part of a gambling study. Most common reasons these gamblers gambled were entertainment and winning money. I was curious to learn more about why people risk their money and invest so much of their time in gambling when most gamblers often lose more than they gain. Importantly, I wanted to know which gambling motives are likely to predict problem gambling. In 2014, my colleagues and I conducted a gambling study and found 2 gambling motives that significantly increase the risk of developing problem gambling.
Entertainment – Gambling is like gaming. It is fun and engaging. So, it not surprising that people sometimes gamble to cope with stress and anxiety. One of the reasons why enjoyment makes gambling addictive is the adrenaline rush and excitement that come with winning or the chance of winning. And, if gamblers keep relying on gambling as a source of entertainment and not addressing repercussions like accumulating debts, the cycle of using gambling to cope with stress continues until gambling becomes problematic. Casinos and gambling companies are aware of this motive. That is why they market their products as entertainment and design gambling games to be fun and engaging to reinforce gambling behavior.
Social reason – Gambling to socialize with friends or meet new people is also a risk of developing problem gambling because social gambling creates social circles of gamblers and reinforces gambling behavior. Gamblers also tend to have other gamblers in their circles rather than non-gamblers. This means that if gamblers go out together, they are likely to gamble together.
I hope that knowing these gambling motivations that are risks to developing problem gambling can help clinicians find suitable support for their patients. Clinicians could encourage their patients to substitute gambling with other entertaining activities that do not cause harm or could encourage their patients to find non-gambler friends, whether inside or outside of their circles.
For more information about Thitapa's study, please see the article The Modified Gambling Motivation Scale: Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Links With Problem Gambling published on the JGI website.