How long is a piece of string? The answer to that depends on all sorts of context that the answerer to the question can’t possibly have. The same is true when answering the question about whether social gambling is a good thing or a bad thing.
The answer is nuanced, depending on countless different circumstances that we don’t know about. In some instances, there is no question that it can be a good thing. Being with other people is usually a positive, to say nothing of the fact that someone else can call you out if your gambling is getting to be too much.
On the other hand, spending time with others when placing bets can often lead to peer pressure to take part in gambling that you might not otherwise do. Being around a load of friends who are placing bets on the roulette, for example, might make you feel as though you should do the same thing even though you don’t really know about roulette.
You might tend to practice Basic Strategy when placing blackjack, but friends might encourage you to ‘go with your gut’ like they’re doing, thereby increasing the House Edge. There is no one ‘correct’ answer to the question.
What Do We Mean By ‘Social Gambling’?
Before we discuss whether we think social gambling is a good thing or a bad thing, we should first establish what it is that we’re talking about when we discuss ‘social gambling’. In essence, what we’re talking about is when a group of people choose to take part in some form of gambling together.
This might be that they have gone to a casino as a group and are tending to spend time at the same tables as each other. It could be that they have turned up at a racecourse or a dog track and are placing bets as a group, discussing what it is that they’re betting on.
For some, it might be a poker night organised at a friend’s house or a journey to a bookmaker’s shop on the way to a pub. Regardless of the ‘what’, it involves a group of people being in some sort of gambling establishment or placing bets with each other at the same time.
There isn’t anything more complex than that involved in the practice of ‘social gambling’, with the key thing being that you’re doing it with a group of people that you know and are therefore likely to be more influenced over your actions than if you were with a complete group of strangers.
Why It Could Be Good
Writing in their paper, The Social Benefits of Gambling, Patrick Basham and John Luik argue that ‘gambling is good for us’. It is, they say, a vital part of being a liberal society, to say nothing of the way in which will all benefit from the taxes raised from gambling by the government.
They argue that buying chips at a casino in order to take part in gambling activities there is no different to paying for a ticket to see a play or buying concert tickets. You are, in essence, paying for your entertainment and there is nothing wrong with that in the grand scheme of things.
For a lot of people, heading to a casino, racetrack or bookmaker’s holds no real consequence. They are able to turn up to such a venue and enjoy themselves, setting a limit on how much they’re willing to gamble and calling it a day when that money is used up.
They are able to control how they act and can treat it no differently to if they had gone to a pub or some other social venue. By doing it with others, they get to enjoy the company of their friends and spend time having a laugh and a joke without the need to spend vast sums of money trying to beat the House.
Even those that have a problem with gambling can benefit from doing it in the presence of friends. That might sound silly, but friends are often the ones that call out your behaviour and put you in your place. It isn’t out of the realms of the possible that some friends that you’re out with point out to you that you’re betting a lot of money and losing more than is healthy.
They might make you realise something that you haven’t realised yourself, grabbing your attention and moving you into a position where you can get help with your behaviour, which wouldn’t have happened if you’d been gambling alone.
Why Some People Think It’s Bad
We are all different. That is a crucial part of being human and there are so many things that can alter the way we behave or how we approach something. What can be seen as a good thing for some can definitely result in being an adverse thing for others.
Imagine a scenario in which you don’t tend to bet on anything in a casino other than blackjack because you have mastered Basic Strategy and you know that that reduces the House Edge. All of the friends that you’ve gone to a casino with are playing roulette, however, and they encourage you to come over and place some bets on the roulette wheel with them.
Even though you don’t know the game and are usually well-disciplined in your betting, you feel the peer pressure to take part in something else so you go with them. Soon, you’ve lost all of your bankroll betting on the wrong things.
Now your friends have moved over to the blackjack table and you want to be able to bet with them. You get more money out of your bank account, placing bets on the blackjack table. Your friends, though, think you’re being boring by following Basic Strategy and you feel pressured into betting ‘on instinct’, losing the money that you’d just taken out of your bank account.
Neither of these examples are beyond the realms of the possible, yet we will often fall foul of not wanting to be left out of the ‘group’ and so we follow the examples of others. This is the sort of thing that can happen when we take part in social gambling, especially if we’re trying to impress someone else. Only you will know whether you’re strong enough in your personality to not engage in what others are up to, so only you will know whether social gambling is likely to be a force for good or not in your own personal circumstances. It will depend both on you and on the company that you keep.