Sports betting: why betting is addictive

Gambling in general and online games such as sports betting are objects with addictive potential due to the structural characteristics they have.

Being able to bet a small amount in exchange for a big prize, the immediacy (speed) between the investment and the outcome, the easy access to multiple sports competitions, the wide availability and accessibility of gambling websites, the access to money or fast credit, are some of the characteristics that make gambling addictive.

Is there a profile of gambling addict?

There is no single profile of a patient addicted to sports betting, but it has been seen that they are mostly men, young and with a high level of education.

Do you think that in the last decade there has been a boom in the number of people addicted to sports betting?

Since the entry into force of the online gambling market in 2011, year after year, there has been a clear increase in the number of users of this type of games.

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Online gambling has become a very accepted form of leisure in society, especially among younger people, and this has led to a clear increase in the number of cases of users with gambling addiction problems.

How can advertising impacts affect gambling? I mean, we have seen advertisements on TV, on sports jerseys, during sporting events… How can it affect young people and children who are constantly watching it?

The great accessibility and availability of a wide variety of online games, as well as the fact that online gambling is seen as a normal leisure activity in our culture and especially among young people, added to the constant pressure exerted by advertising around gambling (commercials, sponsorship of sporting events, gift vouchers, etc.), are factors that are related to the constant increase in cases of young people with addiction problems.

Are sports betting like the ‘slot machines’ of 20 years ago?

Slot machines have always been the type of gambling that has always caused the most addiction problems, and, in fact, they are still one of the main types of gambling for which patients consult, but online gambling and especially sports betting are reaching alarming figures.

Both slot machines and sports betting share characteristics that give them a high addictive power. Both are fast games, very little time passes between the investment and the result (win or lose), provide immediate results (you only have to wait a few minutes to find out if you have won) and involve bets of relatively small amounts of money with the possibility of high prizes.

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Is gambling addiction similar to substance addiction, and are there the same patterns?

Scientific studies show that they share clinical characteristics, both disorders present symptoms of dependence and tolerance.

They also have similarities in terms of the course and evolution of the disease, both addictions have a chronic and relapsing course and finally it has also been seen that both types of addictions have similar neurobiological mechanisms (alteration of the dopaminergic system in the reward circuit). That is why we can consider them as addictions.

How is gambling addiction treated in a psychology office?

The main intervention with these patients consists of a psychological treatment focused on helping the person to achieve abstinence from gambling.

The first step consists, with the help of the family, in blocking the patient’s access to his or her money and to the gambling environment.

Subsequently, we try to modify all the erroneous ideas and beliefs that the patient held about the probability of winning, to help him/her to realize the lack of control he/she has over chance, over the probability of winning prizes and winning money through gambling.

It is also important to work on relapse prevention, helping the patient to identify situations that could pose a risk of relapse and to train new ways of dealing with these situations that do not involve gambling.

Finally, it is important to accompany the patient to find new, varied and healthy forms of leisure that will help him/her to face his/her daily life in a healthier way.

For more information, consult a specialist in psychology.