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Why Do We Gamble Socially And Is Social Gambling Good Or Bad?

friends playing roulette together social gamblingWhen we as players gamble online, it is usually the case that we’re participating in this alone. Often times, it will be as a way of relaxing or having a bit of fun of an evening for a short time period, and potentially win in the process. Yet when it comes to land-based casino visits, it isn’t very common for people to go by themselves. Instead, it is most likely the case that a group of people will go to a casino or to the bingo hall, for example. We partake in gambling as part of a social group, making for a memorable night out for some.

It’s not just offline either.  It is common for people to compare bets they placed on sports in social groups, especially before football matches.  Some people even then place bets based on what their peers are doings. It has even known for friends to play slots and casino games online in the company of other people.

But why do we do this? Why is social gambling something that we get involved in, when there isn’t actually anything stopping us from going to the gambling establishments or placing bets by ourselves. After all, it’s not like heading out to the pub or to the cinema with others, which is a lot more recognised and thought of as understandable. But why do we, as a gambling society, feel the need to go to these casinos, bingo halls and the like alongside others?

Let’s take a closer look at why gambling at land-based establishments is much more common in groups, and has the online scene had any effects on gambling addiction due to lone wagers or vice versa?

Social Gambling

friends playing a slot machine together social gamblingThe act of gambling, in any form, has become recognised as a public health issue in many countries. People gamble for many reasons – for the adrenaline rush that comes with placing bets, to try and win money, for an entertaining time, as a way of de-stressing from the workday, etc. Yet it can lead to some people losing their control on their gambling activity. Anyone who finds themselves wagering more than they can afford to lose, borrowing money to use on gambling games and so on, would definitely need to take a step back from it. That’s easier said than done, though.

For some people, gambling in a group of friends is an ideal way of spending a night out. It provides entertainment, there is the opportunity to socialise with others, and there is the chance to potentially win some money as well. But it can also be for another reason – to keep things controlled. Can it be said that gambling in a group of people is as threatening for problem gamblers as it is alone? After all, a group of friends can keep a check on one another and potentially be a voice of reason if bets are becoming too high or unaffordable. Can the same be said for if you’re placing bets online by yourself?

Asking people what they believe to be a social event, it is likely that a large portion of them would come back with responses like going to a pub or a club or a restaurant together, for example. And those are all highly expected replies. Others may be visiting the gym together or going to see a film at the cinema.

But for others, it is not uncommon to organise those social gatherings that take them into a place of gambling, such as a casino. Gambling has significant social benefits, serving as a form of recreation and entertainment. And at the same time, people want to enjoy their freedom, including the right to do whatever they wish to with their own money.

“Gambling is good for us”, say Patrick Basham and John Luik in their paper on The Social Benefits of Gambling. They comment on how much gambling contributes to public health, in terms of the tax revenues from it, and that it also serves as a vital component when it comes to a liberal society.

And while it may be common for some people to label gambling as a terrible use of money, Basham and Luik argue that purchasing chips for gambling is the same as buying tickets for the cinema or to go and see a band perform live in concert – it provides the buyer with the opportunity to have a fantastic time out enjoying themselves.

Within their paper, a study by Sterling Research was highlighted. This study employed a series of focus groups to examine the gaming industry in Canada. For the people participating in the focus groups, the most prevalent reason for engaging in gambling was entertainment, but that was closely followed by the ability to socialise. Those who visited bingo halls and casinos on a regular basis believed that mingling with other people was an important reason for participating in gambling. And this stands out as a large reason why people go to casinos in groups – because they get to hang out with their friends, play a few games and have a great night out. Playing casino games is a lot more enjoyable when you’re doing it in the company of friends. Those great endorphins are heightened, leading to a positive state of mind.

Adverse Effects

good choice bad choice signWhile it may be the case that playing gambling games while surrounded with friends has a positive outcome for some people, it may also be the case that a negative scenario is experienced. So often, those who are on a night out at a casino will also partake in a few drinks as well. Everyone knows what alcohol can do to the mind of a person, and when people are drinking together in big groups, anything can happen.

Let’s say, for example, that you all go out to the casino. You start playing the games, you’re having a good time, you order a few drinks and continue. At some point, one of your friends decides to up the ante on a game. Someone else follows in suit, not wanting to look “weak” or “incapable” of affording to place such a higher bet. You do the same thing, with peer pressure playing a big part in why that is the outcome. Despite being in a group of people who you consider your friends, when money comes into it, it can become quite the unforgiving scene. You could end up betting more than you can actually afford to lose this way, just to keep up with your friends and maintain the appearance of being able to disconnect with such an amount of money.

That is a social side of this type of casino gaming that is never good for anyone. Unfortunately, alcohol makes people do stupid things, regardless of whether they are surrounded by friends or not. Even those who have significant amounts of money, such as celebrities and sports stars, have found themselves floundering under the pressures of life, losing money on casino games flippantly. Former basketball star Michael Jordan is a fine example of this. In one sitting, he lost $5 million (£4 million) by playing craps, and his extensive gambling habits were covered in The Last Dance, aired in 2020. He placed his bets alongside other NBA colleagues and the like a lot of the time, and it didn’t stop him from sinking into debt, owing $1.2 million (£962K).

Peer pressure can very much be a huge disadvantage, and not solely in gambling, either. Yet when money is involved, as it is in this scenario, perhaps gambling in a social group isn’t the best route to take. Potentially, it can lead to you suffering more at the end of the night, rather than having an enjoyable time out with people you like.

Online Gambling

man accessing online website in disguiseThe introduction of online gambling at casinos, bingo sites, sportsbooks and so on, has had a radical effect on the industry as a whole. Many people have turned to these convenient online platforms as an alternate to going out to the physical establishments. Yet they don’t leave as much room for social interaction as you would find at a land-based gambling venue. Therefore, gambling alone is a lot more prominent due to online gaming becoming much more largely accessible today. Casino games are created with fantastic themes, and the sites provide inviting promotions for you to claim as a player. The same is true of online sportsbooks, where masses of sporting events can be wagered on and special offers for free bets and odds boosts etc. are available. But do these really make up for the lack of social interaction at the end of the day?

There are those options that come with a certain sort of social capability, such as online bingo halls. They will usually have a chat box included in the rooms, giving you the chance to communicate with others playing the same game as you. This has led to some people organising online gaming meetups at those bingo rooms, allowing the possibility for chat and gameplay to take place while all participants are at home.

Yet it may be more convenient to you to play gambling games online by yourself, some would suggest. This is especially true if you are a newcomer to the world of gambling via the internet. Going to a land-based casino by yourself, or even breaking away from a larger group of people you know can be quite scary to proceed with. If there isn’t someone there to show you the ropes, then you may feel like it’s a more likely outcome that you will fail with your gambling activity. This is not always so, though.

Learning about the games and placing bets on sports etc. by yourself has many of its own benefits. While playing with other gamblers may be a more entertaining way of participating in gambling, playing alone does mean that you won’t have to deal with friends and acquaintances trying to call the shots and advise you on what to bet and when. The lessons that you learn this way will be severely watered down, meaning that you won’t have the full-scale idea of what you’re doing. It is therefore advisable, if you’re a beginner, to figure things out by yourself. The online world provides you with the opportunity to do so.

There are also many gaming options available to you online, and when you’re gambling alone, you won’t be as likely to succumb to the bias nature of others. You may have friends who like to play roulette all night long. But if that’s not something you enjoy betting on, it isn’t the right game for you. Playing by yourself online gives you the opportunity to locate the game(s) and wagers that suit you and your budget much more effectively. And this way, you won’t be forced into participating in a game that your friends like, but you don’t.

One final thing to note about playing games online by yourself is that you’ll be able to play at your own pace. Land-based venues are often very quick-paced, especially when it comes to the table games, like blackjack and baccarat. Therefore, you need to be quick on your feet with your bets and the decisions you make during gameplay. This isn’t the case at an online casino, where you can consider your wagers, decide upon the best course of action, and so on. Again, there will be no peer pressure pushing you in one direction or the other with regard to these actions.

That’s not to say that the online gambling scene is all positivity and flowers, though. Many people have succumbed to gambling problems while playing games online, because it provides the ability for it to be a lot more secretive. A woman, speaking to the BBC, said that she started gambling online when she was around 18 or 19-years-old, claiming that she began with a simple £20 bet and won £1,000, before things quickly spiralled for her. It didn’t take long for her to start using her student loan, her bank overdraft and even her phone bill to participate in online gambling activities.

“I was in a bad place, and it filled an emptiness in my life. People assume everyone does it to win money or for the excitement, but it stopped me feeling lonely and anxious”,

she said. Prior to seeking out help for her addiction, Danielle had started stealing money from her place of work, and this amounted to almost £70,000 by the time she was confronted over it.

All of her gambling activity was done alone and in private, with nobody to stop her from going overboard. But people can just as easily go overboard in a land-based casino while surrounded by friends. The difference is that at least one of them may spot addictive traits if you’re with a group of friends and reach out to try and stop you from making a big mistake.

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