Betting is the act of engaging in gambling one’s wealth, or money while guessing the outcome of a race, a game or any other unpredictable event. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ‘the habit of risking money on horse races, sports events, etc.
Poker players, for instance, go on betting money hoping their cards will beat those of other players. They continue to play, not realising before it’s too late that they are under a pile of debt.
History of gambling
Throughout the centuries, gambling/betting has been seen as a form of entertainment, something to boast of and playfully engage in. It is, however, an action perpetuating more harm than good. Gamblers often end up battling addiction, getting stuck in the vicious cycle of putting more and more at stake in hopes of winning it all back.
In Mahabharata, for example, when the Pandavas are challenged to a game of dice by the Kauravas, even though they can understand that they are losing, they continue to play the game losing all their wealth and property as it progresses. The fine line of control is breached and the men end up gambling on their wife when left with no other ‘property’.
In a capitalist society, casinos facilitate this impulse. Internet gambling, electronic gaming machines and even apps that help you bet from the convenience of your home are also tactics employed to profit off of people. It is marketed as a ‘recreational activity’ even though the gambling industry is a useful source of taxable revenue worldwide.
Psychological understanding of gambling
Psychologists do not believe that gambling can be attributed to a factor as simple as greed. What upholds the impulse, you must ask. Why go on when you can see the damage it is causing?
The answer is this – gambling, like any other addiction-causing impulse, is a psychological problem. According to psychologists, it brings in a ‘sense of control’ in a world that is ever-changing and unpredictable. Problem (or ‘pathological’) gambling is a recognised psychiatric diagnosis present in around 1% of the population.
According to Dr Luke Clark, of the Department of Experimental Psychology, it is interesting to note how gamblers overestimate their chances of winning, including the effects of near-misses and personal choice. He believes that it is these features of gambling games which promote an ‘illusion of control’: the belief that the gambler can exert skill over an outcome that is defined by chance.
It must be noted that gambling, like any other addiction, is treatable and there must be no shame in seeking help. Programmes are created specifically to target this addiction, and pharmacological and psychological therapy is effective in its treatment.