Millions of people all over the globe delight unique excitement caused by putting money on some sport event. But from where this delight comes from? How much of psychology, how much of chemistry and how much of society’s impact consist of it? Let’s find out.
Yes, it’s in the nature of man. Sports betting has been living with mankind for ages. We might say that when civilization, at least the one that we know by now, emerged, the sports betting emerged together with it. There are even evidences that people bet on rivalry of other people in… an ancient Rome.
Among the newest exposed remains of 2,800-year-old legendary chariot-racing stadium Circus Maximus tourists can find a lot of examples of mass entertainment from back in the days. Among remains of Circus Maximus there were brothels, bars and - yes, you guessed it - betting shops. In specially designated places citizens of Roman Empire had a chance to place a bet on chariot races. Some historians even believe that sports betting took place before antiquity. It’s quite understandable that our forefathers felt this buzz as intense as we feel it now. But one more time: why do we feel it? There are a couple of answers to this question and none of it exhausts the subject.
Let’s get social
Statista, an online portal for statistics, made a survey in 2017 in which respondents from the United States were asked a simple question: “What do you like about sports betting?”. How do you think, did the survey’s results somehow open eyes to the sports betting case in psychological point of view?
The most common answer in survey was that sports betting makes the sport more interesting to respondents. It received 45 percent of votes. But we will get back to inseparable connection of sports and sport betting later. Now let’s focus on the social aspect of results.
34 percent of respondents answered that basic reason behind their sports betting is rivalry with friends while another 12 percent said that it’s kind of ritual and it seems normal for them and their friends. In brief: nearly half of respondents place bets because people close to them do it as well. It’s their common way of spending time. It seems similar to thousands of other activities, we do something because we can do it together.
Nevertheless, let’s go deeper now. As we mentioned before, more than three of ten respondents like to compete with others. You know, just a simple, buddy competition. Another two most often answers show us, however, different aspects of sports betting, more personal ones.
Nearly three of ten respondents simply like thrill of betting, while the other 15 percent love the risk. Don’t you feel that it is, in some sense, one and the same answer? The risk of eventual winning or losing is the fundamental of thrill and excitement that sports betting brings. It reminds something of a closed circle. We get excited from the risk of betting and possibly losing our hard earned money, but the possibility of winning is simply exhilarating. Sometimes too exhilarating.
You may have also seen that part of bettors see their sports knowledge as something that they can benefit from. It can be reflected in reality by actual winnings, but as well it can have nothing to do with betting results. “Sports gamblers seem to believe themselves as the cleverest of all gamblers. They think that with experience and knowledge, such as player's statistics, manager's habits, weather conditions, and stadium capacity, they can predict the outcome of a game better than the average person” - professor Pinhas Dannon of Tel Aviv University noted in his study published in the journal Psychopathology. It’s pretty common conviction that competence gives bettors advantage. Seems pretty logical, yet this case is more complex than we might think.
Dannon, together with Dr. Ronen Huberfeld of the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, determined that betting experience or sports knowledge doesn’t have to help you with betting. In study focused on football betting, Dannon and Yaakov recruited three groups of participants: 53 professional sports gamblers, 34 football fans with no betting experience and 78 participants that were interested neither in football or betting.
The results of their study was quite surprising. Participants familiar with betting or football didn’t win more often than participants with no know-how. Even more interesting is that two participants with the best winning records were... laymen. - This doesn’t indicate, however, that inexperienced one have any advantage over player aware of specific matter. But the results show that the myth of knowledge as the biggest betting bargain card kind of falls. Sense of control is just an illusion - professor Dannon stated.
Like sex or pizza
So if not from knowledge and experience, then from where comes the need to bet again? It’s quite simple, from chemistry. “Dopamine is your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is a chemical that’s released when we do something that makes us feel good — like eating pizza or having sex or exercising. These activities stimulate the brain, dopamine release triggers the brain to want to do them again. It reflects in bettors’ actions and decisions. It doesn’t matter if they lose or win” - Ben Oliva, a specialist from athletes' mental performance center Sports Strata, stated.
Oliva mentioned that feeling of happiness or pursuit over this feeling is one of the most important matters standing behind continuous betting. If we are in a group of people whose brains release dopamine during betting, then we can be sure that we will try to bet again. And again. And again. “The reason why we gamble is because there is an uncertainty of it. If we had a predetermined outcome, we would not desire it, as it would be less exciting” - he emphasized.
Well done, betting on sports, no matter of knowledge and experience, is after all a game, a competition where someone loses and someone wins. Just like the sports itself. So we’re back to the roots again. Bettors are mainly sports fans. They are simply into both of things.
In 2018 Deloitte made a survey which showed that 43 percent of American men age 25 to 34 who watch sports on TV, put down a bet on a game on a weekly basis. Survey also suggested that die hard sports fans are often die hard bettors. On weekdays, non-bettors watch sports on TV for an average of 1.25 hours daily, while the heaviest sports bettors watch it more than twice as much, for approximately 2,8 hours daily. During weekends non-bettors spend four hours over two days watching sports on TV, while bettors devote 6.4 hours over two days to this kind of activity.
“To put it simply, it appears that weekend TV sports has broader appeal, while weekday TV sports appeals more to the hard-core watchers. Gambling or not gambling on the games makes a bigger difference” - Deloitte’s article claimed.
A lot of mind, maybe much more of heart and a little bit of chemistry - these are the main ingredients for the mixture of sports betting. It’s only up to you, bettors, how this mixture will be prepared. Used unwisely and improperly and it could blow up your betting hopes. For good.