Science Behind Gambling Addiction

Anna Kravtcova
Anna Kravtcova
Problem Gambling Expert
Fact checked by:
Paruyr Shahbazyan
Last Updated: Mar 5, 2024, 7:16 PM

The Complex Reality of Pathological Gambling

The exploration into the science behind gambling addiction uncovers a fascinating interplay of physiological and psychological dynamics that operate within our brains during betting, especially pertinent to North American bettors engaged in the sports and gambling ecosystem. Over the last decade, the escalating issue of gambling addiction has prompted a deeper dive into how our behaviors and brain chemistry change during betting, underlining the importance of understanding these mechanisms.

Physiological and Psychological Dynamics of Gambling

Gambling affects our brain's reward system in complex ways, drawing from seminal experiments by behavioral psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner, who utilized pigeons and rats to establish a link between stimulus and response, demonstrating how unpredictable rewards can foster addictive behaviors【1】​​. This unpredictability, akin to the unpredictability of gambling outcomes, is crucial in understanding addiction's grip.

Dopamine plays a central role in gambling behavior, acting not as a "happiness hormone" but as a mediator of anticipated pleasure, its levels peaking in anticipation of a bet's outcome. This anticipation can drive the cycle of gambling addiction, as individuals chase the thrill of the potential win, leading to problem gambling when the pursuit of this thrill overrides the brain's self-control mechanisms【2】​​.

Identifying and Assessing the Risk of Problem Gambling

To combat problem gambling, various scales assess financial consequences, damaging behavior, signs of depression, and compulsive disorders. Recognizing these signs—ranging from financial mismanagement and self-harm to persistent apathy and obsessive thoughts about gambling—is crucial in identifying and addressing problem gambling behavior​​【3】.

Strategies to Mitigate Risk and Promote Responsible Gambling

Mitigating the risk of problem gambling involves self-control, informed decision-making, and responsible gambling practices. This includes understanding game rules, selecting reputable operators, and practicing financial and time management in gambling activities. Open discussions with loved ones and seeking professional advice are also pivotal in maintaining a healthy approach to gambling​​【4】.

Scientific Approaches to Problem Gambling

Scientific research highlights the efficacy of personal responsibility and self-control in averting problem gambling. Moreover, enhancing one's mood and well-being through natural happiness hormones—serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin—can serve as a counterbalance to the allure of gambling【5】​​.


In summary, understanding the science behind gambling, with references to foundational and contemporary research, underscores the necessity for awareness, self-monitoring, and proactive strategies among North American bettors. This comprehensive approach aims to ensure that gambling remains a form of entertainment without adverse consequences, supported by scientific insights into our behavioral and neurological responses to betting.



  1. B.F. Skinner, The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis, 1938. ISBN 1-58390-007-1, ISBN 0-87411-487-X.
  2. Loretta Graziano Breuning, Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Endorphin Levels.
  3. Li, H., Mao, L.L., Zhang, J.J., et al., "Dimensions of Problem Gambling Behavior Associated with Purchasing Sports Lottery," J Gambl Stud 28, 47–68 (2012).
  4. Ariyabuddhiphongs, V., "Problem Gambling Prevention: Before, During, and After Measures," Int J Ment Health Addiction 11, 568–582 (2013).
  5. Breuning, L.G., Habits of a Happy Brain.

By aligning our understanding and actions with these insights, the aim is to navigate the complex landscape of gambling with informed caution and responsible enjoyment.

Meet Our Authors

Sol Fayerman-Hansen
Sol Fayerman-Hansen

Sol's interest in sports was sparked at a young age, inspired by athletes such as Barry Sanders, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky. This early fascination evolved into a deep-seated passion, guiding him toward a career in sports journalism in 2007. Over the years, Sol has contributed numerous articles and reviews to various online platforms, sharing his knowledge and perspectives.

Central to Sol's approach is his dedication to honesty, especially regarding sports betting platforms. He believes in providing bettors with straightforward and detailed reviews, distinguishing his work by avoiding the often overly positive spin on bonus offers and promotions. His commitment to truthfulness has made his reviews a reliable source for those seeking authentic advice and information, thereby earning him a reputation for integrity among his readers.

“In the world of sports betting, truth is more valuable than any bonus offer.”

Content Manager, OnlineCasinoReports2012-2021
Sports Journalist, Dottraffic2009-2011
Content Writer, HouseTech2007-2009
Cristina Varela Galan
Cristina Varela Galan
Problem Gambling Expert

Cristina used to work as a Psychology Assistant in the Bizkaia Pathological and Risky Gamblers Association. She was also part of a research team in Deusto University, specializing in pathological gambling area. While working there, she managed to develop her own project 

 “Exploring the association between emotional regulation, alexithymia, stressful life events and gambling in adolescent and young adult women”.

Paruyr Shahbazyan began his business career in 2000 as a private entrepreneur. Over thirteen years, he developed a deep understanding for business and leadership, laying a solid foundation for his professional journey.

In 2013, Paruyr stepped into the sports and betting industry as the founder and president of Bookmaker Rating. This online mass media platform, which he led until 2020, focused on providing in-depth analysis and insights in sports betting, earning a reputation for its quality content. 

Continuing his innovative approach in 2022, Paruyr co-founded Azuro, a decentralized betting protocol. This venture showcases his dedication to integrating advanced technology in the evolving landscape of sports betting. Through these diverse experiences, Paruyr has continuously influenced and shaped the betting industry, driving new trends and setting high standards.

Engaged in private entrepreneurship2000-2013
Founder and President at Bookmaker Rating, an online platform focused on sports and betting2013-2020
Co-founder at Azuro, a decentralized betting protocol2022

"Innovation in sportsbetting comes from a deep understanding of both technology and the human element of sports." 

- Paruyr Shahbazyan, Founder, RG


Principles and Ethics

Paruyr Shahbazyan's core beliefs lie in the power of informed decision-making and integrity in the betting industry. He understands that the foundation of successful betting is not just about odds and predictions, but also about the trust and reliability of the information provided. Paruyr advocates for a betting environment where transparency and knowledge are paramount, ensuring that bettors are well-equipped with accurate data and insights.

Strategic Vision

Paruyr's vision is to revolutionize the sports betting industry through the integration of technology. He sees the future of betting as a blend of traditional sports knowledge with innovative tech solutions, like decentralized protocols, to enhance user experience and fairness. His aim is to create platforms that are not only user-friendly but also uphold the highest standards of ethical betting, contributing to a more responsible and enjoyable betting culture.

Future Perspectives

Looking towards the future, Paruyr envisions a betting landscape that is more inclusive, technologically advanced, and globally connected. He anticipates a significant shift towards more decentralized and transparent betting systems, driven by blockchain technology. Paruyr is committed to being at the forefront of this change, continuously exploring new possibilities and innovations that can redefine what it means to engage in sports betting in a digital world. His focus is on building systems that prioritize user empowerment, fairness, and the global growth of the sports betting community.


Anna Kravtcova
Anna Kravtcova
Problem Gambling Expert

Ph.D. in organizational psychology, an internationally certified psychologist (EuroPsy 2022, Cognitive behavioural therapy of mindfulness 2020, International Society for Emotional Intelligence 2017, Russian Psychological society 2014, American Psychological Association(Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologist) 2011), speaker of many international conferences (USA, Brazil, Portugal, Czech Republic, Russia, etc.). TEDx speaker.

Mike Rosenberg
Mike Rosenberg
Content Writer

Mike made the decision to dive headfirst into the booming world of sports betting fresh out of college. Back in the day, when 1-800 pick lines and sports pagers were all the rage, he couldn't resist the allure, having grown up idolizing sports legends like Sweetness, MJ, and Slammin Sammy. Mike dedicated his early years to the industry, tirelessly analyzing games, writing articles with free picks, and selling his expertise on reputable handicapping sites. Unlike many others, Mike was known for his integrity and only released one Game of the Year per sport, per season. His hard work and unwavering commitment paid off, earning him a devoted following and propelling his career to new heights. Then came the explosion of Daily Fantasy Sports. Believe it or not, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel used to pay Mike's company to increase their brand exposure. Now, those same industry giants don't even bother responding to his emails. While Mike appreciates the convenience of being able to place legal bets in his own backyard, he can't help but feel disheartened by what has become of the industry. People are being led astray, falsely believing that a mere $5 wager on a 20-team same-game-parlay will be their ticket to financial security. If there’s one thing Mike learned from making book back in the day, it’s that parlays are a bookie’s best friend. A bankroll is the only leg you have to stand on in the battle with the books, and Mike’s here to offer up advice on how to protect it.