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Psychology of Gambling: Understanding Player Behaviour and Motivations

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Gambling is an amazing leisure activity that is practised across the globe. It has grown meteorically from being played in land casinos only to being played in online and mobile casinos. This growth has led to more accessibility, which has tremendously increased the population of gamblers. What are the forces that are fanning this activity?

Different motivations influence the behaviour of players. The most obvious one is money since there is always a chance of winning significant amounts of cash. It is believed that many people have turned gambling from a leisure activity to an economic one. For them, they go to play online slots Australia to win money and not have fun. However, this is highly discouraged by responsible gambling bodies since it often leads to pathological gambling. 

Nevertheless, financial gain is not the only motivator. The other motivations include the following:

  • Social
  • Enhancement (Increase positive emotions)
  • Coping (Decrease negative emotions)
  • Financial.

We will discuss the psychological triggers and discover how they fall into these broad categories:

Social play

This is perhaps the most common motivation behind gambling. It is used for socialisation, where it is perceived as an activity that brings people together. You can invite your friends and family to engage in bingo, sports betting, or arcades. Gambling adds an element of competition, which enhances the thrill of certain events like sports. 

When people gamble with others, they feel like they are part of something big – and this makes it fun. They will also find themselves recommending the game to others since perhaps it was recommended to them. This falls in the social category. 

For the money

These players attribute their motivation to the probability of winning massive amounts of cash. They do not pay attention to the game since they believe that it is a matter of chance. You will find them playing the lottery and games with huge progressive jackpots. Just as the name suggests, they fall in the financial category.

Money to burn

This is closely related to the previous one but has slight differences. These players make a spontaneous decision to gamble whenever they get free money or money they did not expect. They could play using free cash gifts from friends, loose change in their pockets, leftover credit, or account top-ups. They also love to take advantage of bonuses and promotions such as free spins. 

Along for the ride

These are the people who cannot resist peer pressure; they play to simply have fun with others. They tend to love games like bingo, scratch cards, lottery, and other instant-win games. As opposed to the first group that develops an interest in the activity, these do not. They simply play to enjoy being with others. Gambling and the money they lose or win are just the price they have to pay to remain in a social circle.

Me time

These are players who play for leisure. They perceive gambling as a way of enjoying time alone though they value the possibility of winning money in the process. Their motivation to play is based on the thought of feeling lucky. Most of these players will play slots and table games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat.

Wise decision

Most pro gamblers fall into this category. They play because they strongly believe that they will win courtesy of their superior skill levels. These players prefer skill-based games like poker and blackjack. They also fancy sports betting, where they depend on the ability to meticulously analyze the teams and make correct predictions. In addition to the money, they are motivated by the gambling excitement. They would be first to pounce on a new game. 

Just what I do

These are habitual gamblers who have incorporated gambling into their routine. They can play a range of games alone as a way of treating themselves. These gamblers play regularly regardless of whether they are winning or losing. 

Feeling lucky

Lastly, we have the feeling lucky group who feel like they need to take advantage of an opportune moment or time. They get motivation from other events happening in their lives. If they have a good day, then they would feel the urge to gamble to enhance the excitement further. They will, in turn, avoid it if their stars are not aligning. These players can also be motivated by the news of someone else winning or when they have just received a paycheck. They can play a wide range of games though they may prefer slots and instant-win games. 

These are the eight kinds of players you will find in casinos. They all belong to the four broad categories, though they tend to be intertwined. A player could fall in the wise decision as well as the me time categories at the same time. These are the typologies and psychological triggers that are attributed to gambling.


Jordan Wayne, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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