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Why gambling is so much fun!
By Graham Clifford
Published on 3 March 2008

For decades now scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of why gambling is so popular. Well now it seems they may have cracked it, though the results of the extensive Canadian study are hardly surprising.

According to the University of British Columbia, the thrill of risking money as well as the intermittent rewards can "hijack" the brain's normal reward systems.

Playing poker or visiting a casino to gamble could actually change the way that the brain works, the new research has shown.

As the Vancouver Sun reports, reward systems in human brains are designed to help us learn to get access to essential rewards, such as food and shelter.

"When we gamble, that network is hijacked by that extraneous - that is, non-essential - reward," researcher Catharine Winstanley at the university’s Department of Psychology said.

When playing poker or risking money at a casino a chemical called dopamine is released in the brain, which gives the feeling of 'a high'.

Researchers point out that even when we are not winning, the rush provided by taking a risk also seems to be part of the reward.

Anyone who has ever placed a wager on the grand national or attended a bingo hall will be able to relate to that high. Even if your horse doesn’t come in or the wrong numbered balls appear you still experience that ‘high’.

A study of rats given medicine to simulate the rush of gambling showed that the animals chose activities which involved higher risks for bigger rewards.

What the study shows is that the desire to gamble is totally natural though some people are more cautious than others and would avoid casinos etc. thereby not creating dopamine in their brain.

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