We here in Australia spend a massive amount of money on gambling - over $23 billion, in fact: that's more than $1,250 for every man and woman. While for many it's no doubt a harmless and pleasant pastime, it causes untold misery and pain for thousands of people, not just the gamblers themselves but their families: at least 115,000 Australians are directly and seriously harmed by gambling, and for every one affected, between five and ten others are indirectly hurt. The damage is worst in the poorest areas.
What is it that causes some people to have a real problem with gambling, while others can have the occasional flutter and not think anything more of it? While you might think that such people are 'weak' or have an 'addictive personality,' there's lots more going on than that. Take the new generation of what used to be called slot machines, now referred to popularly as pokies and more technically as electronic gaming machines. (Pokies represent about half the money, some $12bn, lost on gambling each year.) They have flashing lights, a whole host of sounds - and multiple reels. As a result, you can bet a whole heap of bets per spin, so you can have wins... and still lose. That means you can feel as if you're a winner, while actually you're down.
And near misses are important, too, because when you don't win, but come oh-so-close, the effect is much more arousing than a clear loss. Further, the more a person is gambling, the more extreme is the dopamine hit.
Gambling researcher Mike Robinson has written an excellent summary of the ways gambling distorts reality and hooks your brain.
What's particularly alarming is that TV and online advertising is normalising gambling, particularly for children. Research shows that kids are getting really good at recalling gambling brands, and although there has recently been some regulation, it's far from clear that enough is being done. Perhaps part of the reason is that state and federal government is addicted to gambling, too: they rake in almost $6bn in taxes each year.
If you are gambling more than you know is good for you, there is help available. Here's a whole bunch of different services you can access: https://aifs.gov.au/agrc/gambling-help. And Hypnotherapy can play its part, too: give me a call on 0423 793887 to discuss how.