Why Do People Gamble Online? A Hypothesis

A hand holds a piece of paper with the word 'Why?' printed on it.
Online gambling is probably here to stay. Why do people love it so much?

Gambling is as old as mankind, maybe older. If the dinosaurs ever had a civilization of their own they probably played games of chance just like the rest of us because even today we see animals taking risks when they hunt or fish. Gambling is a refined form of risk-taking that really evolved from our need to take risks to survive.

So now that you know how natural gambling really is, you will agree with me that we probably will never stop gambling. To stop gambling completely we would have to stop taking risks, and without risk-taking we have no real purpose in life. We’ll just sit and vegetate.

But though it is easy to say that gambling evolved from natural risk-taking it’s still a curious thing that people are so clearly divided on both gambling and online gambling. We play games of all different types both on and off the Internet, but few of the people who object to gambling seem to object to other games. Not that gambling is really a specific type of game.

In fact, you can play every game used in gambling without risking any money at all. The gambling part is the wagering on the outcome of the next play. You just happen to be the player if you are running the slots or holding cards in your hand.

There are legions of Websites about gaming and gambling topics that people visit every day. You can gamble, learn to gamble, or learn about the dangers of gambling (or the rewards) by reading a thousand different articles. You can play in online games for free or, if you live in a country or state where online gambling is permitted, you can bet real money on your games.

No random Website will fully satisfy your curiosity, or keep you well informed. Some sites are hardly worth visiting because they don’t say much. Maybe they will improve over time but you never really know. They just happen to “be out there”.

And there are Websites that seem to be off-topic but which may link to something interesting in the topic. You might be better off just chatting with your friends. But let me get back to my pointed question: why do people gamble online?

I think the reason is that they feel safe. I think if you are in your own home and you are betting your paycheck you still feel like you are not going to lose anything. I don’t encourage people to gamble away their savings or their mortgage money. You should only gamble with money you don’t need.

But people may also gamble online simply because there are so many choices. If you don’t live near a large casino you may quickly become bored with the gaming options available to you. The Internet offers a smorgasbord of games and gaming options you really cannot find in any one offline location.

You can visit one of the major gaming resort cities like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or Monaco but that’s expensive. And you have to wander from casino to casino looking for just the right kind of game to hold your interest. At 2 AM in the morning even the largest casinos start to quiet down and you wish you could just crawl into bed and get some shut-eye.

With online gambling people may feel like they can go back to it any time, and perhaps that helps them pull away. Not everyone becomes addicted to gambling but a lot of people do play games on a regular basis.

You may think this is not a very important question but given that people spend billions of dollars every year on gambling I think it’s a very important question. It’s necessary for us to understand our own behavior as a society because we have to regulate the people who would take advantage of us.

And I think the casino owners do take advantage of people’s love of gambling. It’s a big industry that only keeps growing. We will never stop each other from taking risks but if we understand what the secondary risks are, the risks of being cheated or manipulated into gambling when we otherwise would not, then maybe we can as individuals take better control over our own lives.

Without some moderation and regulation we might all be seduced by the conveniences of the Internet. That is a very real concern among some psychologists and sociologists because even though gambling has been with us for thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of years, we have only had an Internet for less than 50 years.

When you think about it, mankind has not evolved to survive with an Internet. We lack the basic biological defenses we need to protect ourselves from a hostile environment. The Internet may prove our undoing simply because it is so new to us as a culture and a species.

So the next time you get ready to pull that virtual slot machine lever, ask yourself, “Do I really know what I am doing?” As long as you feel confident that you do keep taking risks. But if you suddenly feel a little lost it may be time to take a break.