If you see, hear or read any criticism of gambling in the United Kingdom, the normal words used are that it is becoming ‘normalised’ as an activity. The suggestion of this is that gambling is not normal and that something has perverted it to be introduced to the mainstream.
The obvious question that is then asked is whether or not that is true. As long as human beings have existed, we have gambled. Whilst that might not be true in the sort of way that we understand it nowadays, even the decision to leave the cave for the very first time was a gamble.
We know that animals gamble. Again, they don’t get dressed up and head into a casino, but they do gamble naturally in various different circumstances, just not for monetary reward. In other words, it is entirely normal to engage in gambling as an activity.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the modern version of gambling is what you would describe as normal. The fact that we all have regular access to gambling sites thanks to our computers, mobile phones and tablets isn’t something that you’d call ‘normal’, which needs to be borne in mind when exploring gambling as a topic.
Why We Gamble
In order to understand whether or not gambling is normal, it is helpful to establish why it is that we gamble in the first place. It is human nature to want to take risks. Whether you break the speed limit when you’re driving, eat something that is out of date or put your face close to a cat or a dog when they might lash out at you, you have engaged in a form of gambling.
Though they don’t involve spending money, unless you get a speeding fine, the use of monetary value in gambling is merely just an extension of what we already do in every life in any number of circumstances.
There is also the social aspect of gambling. It might be that you’ve chosen to place bets with friends when watching a sports event, for example, or you’ve gone to the casino with people. Maybe you’re engaging in a regular poker night. Whatever it is that you’re doing when it comes to gambling, there is nothing illicit or immoral about it.
It is entirely normal and you’re choosing to do it in order to fit in with friends or family members. You might also choose to gamble in order to try to improve the stake amount that you have available to you, even though you’re unlikely to succeed.
For some people, gambling is something of an escape from their every day lives. This is no different to those that choose to drink, say, in order to ‘take the edge’ off how they feel. In and of itself this isn’t abnormal nor is it problematic, provided you have control over the gambling that you engage in.
Regardless of the specific reason that you decide to gamble, you shouldn’t be made to feel that you’re doing anything wrong by those that would criticise it as an activity. Provided you can afford to lose the money that you’re betting with and you see it as entertainment, it’s entirely normal and legal to gamble occasionally.
There have been numerous examples of research carried out by experts to show that members of the animal kingdom gamble. Work by Psychology Professor Thomas Zentall showed that pigeons tend to gamble, as an example. You could look at primates, rodents and other animals for examples of creatures that choose to gamble on a regular basis, provided you take that word at its face value rather than add our modern understanding of what ‘gambling’ means to it.
A monkey is gambling when it lets go of a rope or vine to leap to another one, even though no money changes hands.
Anything that involves an animal taking a change on something that isn’t certain is a form of gambling. The fact that this sort of thing happens on a regular basis in the animal kingdom, to say nothing of with us humans, means that the act of gambling is entirely normal and we shouldn’t look down on those that choose to engage in it.
It is as much about the process of gambling as it is the outcome when it comes to what people choose to gamble on. Adding money into the equation is merely a furtherance of something that we already do, just as the other animals do, on a regular basis.
Modern Day Gambling Is Perhaps Not Normal
Whilst it is entirely fair to suggest that gambling as an activity is normal, there is an argument that the way in which gambling exists in the modern world is far from normal. Whilst placing a bet every now and then is a normal activity, just as taking a chance on the outcome of speeding on the motorway is normal, doing so on a regular basis is not.
Putting your foot on the gas to get to 80 miles per-hour in order to overtake someone on the motorway is a normal action that the majority of drivers do on a regular basis. Doing 100 miles-per-hour for the entire journey is not normal and risk getting pulled over the police.
Similarly, hopping onto a betting site or popping into a bookmaker’s shop in order to put a bet on a horse race or a football match is normal. Spending all day and night on betting apps, placing wagers on sports or events that you don’t even know about, is not normal.
Doing that sort of thing runs the risk of you becoming a compulsive gambler who lacks control over what it is that you’re betting on. Gambling has an affect on the brain, so being able to control that or having no control over it is the difference between being a ‘normal’ bettor and otherwise. It can be key to your behaviour.
There are numerous factors that can lead to someone becoming a problem gambler. The environment in which you’re gambling as well as some biological and cultural factors will all make a difference to whether or not you’re able to control your impulses. That doesn’t mean that the act of gambling in and of itself is not normal.
Most of us are able to gamble without falling foul of our worst compunctions, so the fact that others are not capable of maintaining control over how they gamble is not a sign that gambling is abnormal. Such people are simply wired differently and help is available for them to control their gambling impulses.