Most of us like to gamble. Who hasn’t bought a lottery ticket or Scratch card, or had a flutter on the Grand National, played poker for money or been in the penny arcades in a seaside town? There is no problem when stakes are small, it is harmless fun and the excitement that you could be the next big winner. But the anticipation and thrill of gambling creates a natural high that can become addictive. The internet has made gambling more accessible, allowing more and more people to do it from home. More and more people are feeling the pinch of austerity measure and the Scratch card or lottery ticket gives them a dream that they could be rich. These factors have created a situation where gambling addiction is on the rise.

Obsessive gambling is now regarded as a mental illness, though many view it as simply an irresponsible choice. The so-called “compulsive” gambler may claim he has become “addicted” and this really means that he has immersed himself so deeply that quitting is hard to do. Yet, just as people struggle to give up many bad habits, once these habits have cost them dearly, the “addicted” gambler can do the same. Some require help while others do it by their own persistent effort. There are several charities who help problem gamblers which believe that that pathological gambling is an addiction similar to chemical addiction. It has been seen that some pathological gamblers have lower levels of norepinephrine than normal gamblers. According to a study conducted by Alec Roy, formerly at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, norepinephrine is secreted under stress, arousal, or thrill, so pathological gamblers gamble to make up for their under-dosage, some even display physical symptoms on withdrawal from gambling.

Internet gambling has made losing money all too easy; Internet gambling has become one of the most popular and lucrative business present on the Internet. In 2007 the gambling commission stated that the gambling industry achieved a turnover of over £84 billion according to the UK Gambling Commission. This is partly due to the wide range of gambling options that are available. You don’t have to invite friends around for a round of poker or venture out to the bookies any more-it can all be done whilst sitting at your computer, or even on your Smartphone. Most British consumer online gambling activity is on overseas regulated websites, and estimates place the UK consumer market for online gambling at £1.9 billion for 2010. (Approximately three times the size of the British regulated market).

Some problem gamblers have the terribly erroneous belief that, if they keep playing, they will eventually win. While it is logically correct to say that the more one plays the game, the probability of winning increases, some hold the fallacious belief that previous failures influence the likelihood of future successes. If individual incidences of probabilistic events are independent of each other, then this belief is clearly incorrect. To hold such a belief is to commit the gambler’s fallacy. But logic does not seem to apply to a gambler’s brain. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”  It doesn’t stop me wasting money on a Scratch card every week though.