Gambling has its origins in the paleolithic era – it is older than written language and most forms of agriculture. It is not a new problem at all, though in the modern era it takes a variety of forms that can disguise its nature. There are many modern forms of gaming that occupy the hazy gray areas at the edge of gambling, and there are many avenues for speculation that while they may seem completely removed from traditional gambling, still have all the elements to foster a gambling disorder.
The Three Elements of Gambling
To start with a simple definition, gambling, no matter how abstracted the mechanics are, has three consistent elements: consideration, chance and prize.
Consideration – The consideration is the understanding and acceptance of the rules of the game from the outset and the willingness to put something of worth on the line. It is an implicit contract between two parties who agree to some amount of risk.
Chance – The chance is the determination of who benefits from the risk and who does not is determined by some form of probability – there is a chance for each party to walk away a winner or a loser.
The prize – The prize is the desired result – some outcome that the individual regards as more valuable than their initial stake.
It is very easy to see these elements in classical casino gambling. The slot machine has its rules and prizes written on to it or accessible via a screen. The player may read and accept them and pay the cost to play as consideration. The slot machine then uses a random number generator to produce an outcome – the player either loses their stake, or wins one of the stated prizes. It’s the same with games like Craps or Roulette – a set of agreed upon rules signified by an investment from the player, then a source of randomness that determines the outcome.
Illusion of Control is a Game Changer
The waters first become muddied with games like Blackjack and Poker. Now there is a random element in the cards, but there’s a sense that one can become “good” at these games, that they’re no longer just blind chance. Because the player makes a series of choices in the course of a single game that all play a part in determining the outcome, it creates an illusion of control for the player. But these are still gambling games, and wouldn’t be offered in the casinos if the end result wasn’t a profit for the house. In these types of games, the outcome is still ultimately up to chance, even when the player plays as well as is possible. Another way to say this is that there are definitely wrong choices, which result in the player lowering their probability of winning, but even when the player makes all the right choices, they are still no better off than if they were playing Craps or Roulette.
Another interesting veil to hide gambling behind is to make it a collective action. In games like Bingo and Keno, individuals all make their own unique consideration, but their initial bets are pooled to create a larger prize pool (after the house cut, of course.) The random element is basically the same but the result is an award many times the amount of the original consideration.
A relatively recent game that follows this model is fantasy football. When played for real money, it is effectively the same schema as Bingo, just stretched over a season of a sport instead of a series of balls tumbling from a cage. This type of game is called a speculation game, because you’re betting on events that the gamblers can research and feel like they have insider knowledge of, but at the end of the day there are so many factors at work that the result is still probabilistic.
Sports betting and racetrack betting both fall under the category of speculation games. No matter how much statistical, anecdotal, or mystical knowledge you collect about the outcome, the determination still comes down to random chance. And again, when you are gambling in a scenario where one of the parties is a business, the math of the consideration will be weighted such that the outcomes will favor the house in the long run.
Speculation betting is one of the types of gambling where the lines get the haziest. We wouldn’t normally think of a hobby like collecting stamps as being gambling, but all the elements are there: Consideration of the current markets and general trends, and a decision to “buy in” on a proposition by purchasing an object for the collection, then over time the valuation of that object rises or falls based on a number of incalculable functionally random factors. Eventually the “prize” is determined by whether the timing and choice of the investment were sound.
And Speaking of Investment
No discussion of speculative gambling would be complete without contemplating the massive betting markets that are so popular they get covered daily on the evening news. The Stock Market is one giant distributed speculation gambling enterprise. This is particularly worth noting because there are types of behavior that can definitely lead to a gambling disorder but are much more difficult to recognize because they are masked by socially accepted norms. If an individual lost ten thousand dollar playing bingo every night, they would likely be referred for treatment of a compulsive gambling addiction, but if that same amount was lost due to a series of poor stock management choices, the idea of treatment might never come up. This is not to say all investment is bad or a result of an unhealthy relationship with gambling, just noting that to someone who already had a propensity towards gambling, the consideration, chance and prize incentive are all there. The behaviors and mental patterns that result in a gambling disorder can and do occur outside of a casino setting and are much more likely to go undiagnosed and the person suffering from the disorder never receiving any kind of gambling addiction help.
Treatment for Compulsive Gambling Disorder at A Gambling Addiction Treatment Center
The opportunity to gamble is everywhere. That means it is very difficult for someone struggling with compulsive gambling disorder to avoid being triggered and then lured in to some type of game, even one that feels innocuous. Compulsive gambling addiction, like substance abuse, is something a person needs help to recovery from. If you are researching gambling addiction treatment services and would like to talk to someone who can answer questions about treatment, call FHE Health today and we can walk you through our gambling addiction treatments.