Sports Betting in the United States is banned in most states but that hasn’t stopped sports bettors from turning to unlicensed sports betting websites to have a punt. They risk exposing themselves to unscrupulous operators and going outside the law because they are under a strong compulsion to do so according to neuro researchers.
Researchers have now reported that sports bettors continue to place bets even after knowing these risks due to a neurotransmitter that’s associated with pleasurable reward. Last year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) revealed that over $10.4 billion were made in bets at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament alone and 97 percent of these bets were wagered illegally.
Apart from breaching the law to make these illegal sports betting wagers, sports bettors have also exposed themselves to becoming susceptible to problem gambling concerns and gambling addiction. The research showed that the increased risk of gambling addiction was more prevalent in states where sports betting was still illegal.
Research carried out by Rutgers University’s Center for Gambling Studies last year showed that the prevalence of gambling rate disorders in New Jersey has spiked three times more than the average rate of those in other states.
Increased Chances of Winning: Myth or Truth?
Research has shown that one of the main reasons why sports bettors keep going back to place more bets is because they believe that they gain a better chance of winning as they immerse themselves deeper in the game and keep playing. According to Sports Strata Mental Coach Benjamin Oliva, the punter thinks that as he invests more time in playing, he will get more practical knowledge about the winning odds, and subsequently will have a higher winning chance.
But research has proven that these lucky streaks are no more than givers of a false sense of confidence. In a 2013, a research study completed by Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, Prof. Pinhas Dannon and Dr. Ronen Huberfeld found that neither experience in betting nor knowledge of the game is connected to better betting outcomes.
They studied a sample of three groups, where one group consisted of professional sports gamblers, one group were soccer fans but not gamblers, and another group had no idea about sports or gambling altogether.
Their findings reveal that after the participants were asked to place bets, two of the most successful bettors came from the third group who had no prior knowledge about gambling or soccer.
In the end, they found that continued gambling does not create better winning odds for punters. The real influencer over a sports bettor’s behavior had to do with a neurotransmitter embedded in every gambler’s brain.
Dopamine Fuels Gambling
Neuropsychological studies reveal that the secret behind gambling behavior is purely chemical and biological: it’s the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine is basically what Oliva calls the brain’s “reward system.” It is a chemical associated with feelings of pleasure and is often released by the brain after receiving a hug from a loved one, during sexual intercourse and also when one wins a sports betting wager.
The feeling of happiness is then craved by the individual once again, which acts as a trigger for the person to continue to pursue the activity that caused them to feel that way in the first place. This is one of the biggest reasons behind continuous betting—the excitement and pleasure of winning. And with continuous betting, the punter’s brain is trained to start to experience those feelings of excitement and elatedness even as early as the time they place their bets.
Sports Betting Boosting The Economy
But it’s not just the individual that’s getting a high from all the betting—even the economy receives a much needed boost thanks to the enormous sums of money the sports betting industry is generating. In 2017, Nevada reported a record-high revenue of $248.8 million from sports wagering. This is the fifth consecutive year that the state has seen sports wagering revenues upwards of $200 million.
Because of this, many states want a piece of the sports wagering cake. Since punters are betting via illegal sports betting websites, a number of states want sports betting to be made legal so that they can profit from the industry.
New Jersey is leading the fight and looking to get the Supreme Court to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. While the Supreme Court has yet to release their final verdict on the matter, a lot of states are already expecting a positive ruling towards New Jersey, which should be announced in the next couple of months.