What the Science of Addiction Says About Problem Gambling

min read
A frustrated man leans against a slot machine with his head in his hand.
BetMGM Oct 30, 2023, 2:18 PM

The study of addiction has led to significant progress toward the accurate diagnosis of problem gambling. Once considered an impulse-control disorder, problem gambling has been reclassified in recent years, now falling under the category of addictive disorders.

Under the new definition, all forms of gambling can lead to addiction, regardless of whether you’re playing casino table games, purchasing lottery tickets or making bets with friends. The diverse range of experiences related to gambling makes problematic behaviors difficult to diagnose, so understanding the causes and recognizing the signs of addiction are incredibly important.

Defining problem gambling

Problem gambling, known scientifically as ludomania, is an addictive disorder related to impulse control and obsessive-compulsive behavior. It’s defined by disruption and damage to daily living, interference with regular routines and strained social relationships.

When problem gamblers play casino games for real money, they lack self-control in the face of any gambling opportunities, even if they can’t afford to lose. In other words, they struggle to maintain responsible gambling habits. Gambling transforms from an entertaining pastime into a necessity, and lack of access to it leads to a fixation on finding it.

Compulsive gamblers take unnecessary risks, continuing to make bets no matter how detrimental the habit becomes. It can be tough to spot the signs of problem gambling from an outsider’s perspective, but there are several warning signs to look out for that apply to all forms of gambling.

How to identify problem gambling

You don’t have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler, but placing bets daily doesn’t make you a problem gambler either. Similarly, someone who’s well-off financially can afford to play more frequently, but it doesn’t mean that they have a problematic habit. 

What we’re trying to say is, medical experts won’t look at factors in isolation. The broader picture matters most, specifically in terms of finances, social life and quality of life. So, if you recognize any of the following general indicators, consider seeking the aid of a professional.


Do you play online casino games often? If a stranger were to ask you that question, would you feel the need to be dishonest? Problem gamblers often hide their habit from others, associating discovery with guilt, embarrassment and judgment. The mere thought of being caught causes anxiety, leading to serious psychological repercussions when left to fester.

Compounding losses

One of the clearest signs of troubled gambling is financial difficulty. When a gambler feels compelled to continue playing, despite mounting losses, even online casino games with the best odds are going to be more costly than they’re worth. After all, the house always holds the advantage, and you have to know when to walk away from one too many deductions.

Concerned friends and family

If the people you spend time with are willing to express concern over your betting habits, take them seriously and try not to get offended. It’s a sensitive topic that tends to elicit negative reactions from compulsive players, but the awkwardness of these exchanges can easily be countered through mutual respect and understanding.

Effects of problem gambling

According to recent studies, up to 10% of gamblers display signs of addiction. When you factor in the significant influx of players from popular formats like online slots, that percentage translates to thousands of players gambling when they shouldn’t be.

When you’re playing a casino dice game, for example, every tenth player is potentially a problem gambler. That’s a startling statistic when you put it in perspective, and it holds more significance when you understand how drastic the consequences of bad habits can be.

Problem gamblers can experience a range of financial issues and relationship troubles. In extreme cases, desperation to maintain betting habits can lead to unemployment, mountains of debt and even criminal activity. 

One of the main reasons that problem gambling goes unnoticed is the absence of physical symptoms. Unlike substance abuse, there’s no direct threat to physical well-being and the obvious signs only appear when a serious problem has already developed. Still, you can recognize the early warning signs by knowing the catalysts for addictive tendencies.

Factors that contribute to problem gambling


Live dealer casino games and other digital formats are highly accessible nowadays. All you need to get started is a smartphone with an online connection, the combination of which makes it all too easy to fall into the trap of gambling too often. Newcomers should be cautious and keep a close eye on their play time and set limits on how much to spend.

Mental health issues

High comorbidity is a frequent characteristic of addictive behavior. What this means is that individuals with preexisting conditions such as ADHD, depression and bipolar disorder are more likely to indulge in irresponsible gambling, often with substance abuse as an accompanying factor. 


The bad gambling habits of friends and relatives can contribute to the growth of addiction problems. Whether it’s through peer pressure or observation, exposure to these habits can occur from a young age, creating a cycle of behavior dictated by influence. To overcome “cyclical addiction,” gamblers should do their utmost to learn from the mistakes of others. 

Gamble responsibly with BetMGM

Unfortunately, many problem gamblers avoid seeking help until it’s too late. The good news is that self-help is always a possibility, irrespective of whether you’re a casino gambler or a sports bettor

Here at BetMGM, we know that gambling isn’t a way to make money. It’s a form of entertainment that needs to be enjoyed responsibly, with limits to how much you spend and how long you play. To ensure that you’re playing the best and most popular games, register now and explore all that the world of online casino games has to offer.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.