In the summer of 2019, I found myself exploring Bratislava as well as gambling. As I was wondering around the city, I came across a casino. I had never been in a casino before and so, I had to cross that out of my to do list. I got my casino card, I checked out the slot machines and the other games and of course, I gambled a small amount of money. Most of my time though went to people watching.
At a certain point, a lady was sitting next to me and she looked at me a bit upset. I looked back and she said “no good machine, no good machine!” I started saying “maybe you can try another one, if this one is not working…” but of course, I stopped myself, as I soon realized that by “no good machine” she meant a slot machine, which does not give her earnings, but otherwise fully functional. She continued saying the same thing for a while, trying with her poor English to explain how the slot machine would only give her a few euros in earnings. I cannot recall our later conversation, but she left really upset for not finding a “good machine.”
Later on, as I had moved around and continued gambling my 5 euro note, a man sat at the machine next to me and inserted a 500 euro note into the slot machine. I was gambling my 5 euros with a bet of 10 cents each time and chose a skills game, so a five euro note could take me for a half to one hour of a game. This gentleman lost his 500 within 2 or 3 minutes. And right then, he inserted another one, which he lost within a few minutes as well. And a third one, which of course, he also lost. I thought to myself, maybe since he is so ready to lose this money, why don’t I go ahead and I ask for it? It’s a fair amount to can afford to lose in less than 15 minutes. But of course, this man was not ready to “lose” that money. What he was ready is to make it much more.
These two different behaviors are very prominent in people who have a gambling problem. I am not saying these two people had a gambling problem. They might have had one, or not. However, people who do have a problem, behave in such ways; gambling big amounts of money in very little time, or holding irrational beliefs about winning and losing when gambling (the machine is not good, I did not wear my lucky shirt, that’s why!). Most of the time and for the majority of people, gambling is only a fun activity. However, if this starts affecting one’s life, this becomes pathological. In a few worse situations the person might get addicted to gambling, which then becomes a serious mental health issue, which affects the person life.
We can understand that we or people with know are addicted, if we can observe any four (or more) of the behaviors below for at least one year continuously (DSM-V, 2013):
- the person has the urge to gamble an increased amount of money each time to feel the same enthusiasm
- the person gets anxious or irritable when trying to reduce the gambling
- the person has repeatedly tried to control, reduce, or stop gambling and has failed
- the person things of gambling often (relives past gains or losses, thinking of how to find money to gamble again, fantasizes future wins)
- the person gambles when they feel anxious or stressed
- the person returns to gambling after a loss to make up the lost amount, to “get even”
- the person lies about their gambling (frequency, intensity, amount paid, consequences)
- the person endangers or loses an important relationship, a job, or an educational opportunity due to gambling
- the person relies on others for financial support after the loss
Digital nomads might get hooked up in gambling. Travelling can get lonely and if you are the kind of person who is not so social, a casino can be an excellent opportunity to spend time playing fun games and feeling excitement. It’s easy to go with the flow and have all the free drinks and foods, while you interact with colorful screens, sounds, and intelligently designed games to grab people’s attention. It’s designed so! And it’s fine to do it every now and then. It is also normal when you gamble and lose some money to experience some of the above mentioned behaviors, so do not worry. However, if you experience many of the above for over a year, or even if you see that gambling affects your life, relationships, or finances even without being addicted, get help to change this.