The Psychology of iGaming and Online Gambling in 2023

Jonatan Parski CEO

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The Psychology of iGaming and Online Gambling in 2023

When it comes to online gambling, there’s a lot of research and opinions surrounding it. Gambling has been a favorite pastime of many for decades, and with the introduction of the internet, the iGaming industry is booming. However, online casinos and sports betting sites impact people’s psychological behavior.
For many tears, researchers have looked into how online gambling affects gamblers. In this article, we at Captain Words will look at how online casinos and gambling work, the psychology of iGaming in 2023, and the research that supports it.

How Does iGaming Work?

The iGaming industry refers to any online gambling activity. It includes playing casino games or participating in sports betting. You visit online gambling sites and place bets using real money deposits. If the wager is successful, you’ll receive back your stake and additional winnings.

However, if the wager loses, you lose your stake entirely. As such, when you gamble while playing online casino games, you take the risk of experiencing catastrophic losses. 

You have various banking options at online casinos, as you must deposit real money with online gambling. These banking options range from e-wallets and cards to online banking and cryptocurrencies.

Overall, playing at sports betting sites and online casino gambling should be done for entertainment. If you’re doing it to make an income, or aren’t enjoying the games anymore, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. This is where the psychological aspect of gambling becomes such a hot topic.

What is the future of the iGaming industry?

In 2020, the iGaming industry was worth around $173.7 billion. However, experts predict it’ll only continue to rise. In 2022, the annual gross gambling revenue in the US was $60.42 billion, which doesn’t even consider the global market.

The total spent on online casino gambling ads in 2021 was around $1 billion. Experts predict this figure will rise to $1.9 billion by December 2023. Overall, analysts across the globe believe that the total worth of the online gambling industry will double from 2021 to 2026. That’s five short years for the industry value to increase 100%. It simply shows the booming popularity of online casinos and sports betting.

The US has various online gambling laws, which depend on the state’s laws. Some federal laws mean there are specific regulations states must follow. However, it’s up to the state whether to allow online gambling legal play. So far, only a few states allow these sites. In the following states, meaning West Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Michigan, online casinos are allowed.

Safe Gambling Sites

Part of responsibly enjoying the iGaming industry is using legal and safe platforms. While offshore casinos are a gray area in US law, some still offer its services to US players. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. A trustworthy authority must appropriately license casinos and sports betting sites. Top regulating authorities, like the Malta Gaming Authority, ensure you don’t run increased risks while playing.

US states which allow gambling also have their own regulating authority. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is a prime example. These authorities ensure that good banking options and RNG software are available. 

What is the Psychology of iGaming?

Psychology in iGaming refers to studying how online gambling at sports betting sites and online casinos affects people. It considers the psychological effects and behaviors people show after they start to gamble online. Various studies explore this area of research and draw several conclusions. 

There are various psychological symptoms people show when gambling. The question is whether these psychological symptoms are good or bad. However, before we look at the findings, we first examine the basics of this psychology study.

How Do Our Brains Encourage and Discourage Behaviors?

As humans evolved, we perfected our internalized systems which govern our behaviors and how we think. In basic terms, these systems reward us for the “right” behavior and punish us for the “wrong” behavior. However, psychology exists because “right” and “wrong” behavior is subjective and changes depending on the person.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Systems like Maslow’s pyramid or hierarchy show some things are universally considered “good” or “bad” behavior. At the bottom of the pyramid are your physiological requirements to survive, such as food, water, breathing, sleeping, etc.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Source: Simply Psychology

Next, you’ll see safety concerns like the security of employment. It also includes the protection of the body, resources, etc. The next tier is belonging, which can become subjective according to the person. It generally encompasses friends, family, and romantic intimacy. Esteem is above belonging, and although we all want good self-esteem, how it is realized differs from person to person.

For example, one person’s esteem of themselves will result in them buying only the best things. Another person’s esteem will require them to live a humble life where they only get what they need.

At the top of the hierarchy is self-realization. Self-realization includes your morality, creativity, problem-solving, and more. This tier forms the core of who you are and differs vastly from person to person, though there are similarities.

Deficiency needs, which you need for survival, are generally easily categorized as “right” and “wrong.” These needs refer to the fact that if you’re hungry, then eating is correct. However, as we climb the pyramid, it turns into growth needs, which you must meet to grow as a person, but how it grows varies.

Categories in Maslows Hierarchy of Needs
Categories in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Source: Simply Psychology

For example, you might need to meet your social need in the “belonging” category. Some people might only need a day with family or a relaxed night at a friend’s house. Other people might need that you go out clubbing or spend the weekend busy with social events. Both will fulfill that need but require different actions depending on the person.

The idea is that you start at the bottom of the hierarchy. As you more or less satisfy each need, you can move on to the next one. You must fulfill particular psychological needs to experience other needs. Whether this is as clear-cut as it seems remains to be proven. However, we can understand the idea behind the hierarchy.

How Do Casino Games Leverage This System to Become Addictive?

We’ll show you how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs affects gambling behavior. We discussed your body “rewarding” and “punishing” you for good and bad behavior. With rewards, we mean physical responses like the release of dopamine, while punishment is often psychological, mental, or physical pain, like feeling guilty or sad.

As we want to experience the rewarding part, we’ve perfected how to get good results with minimum effort, as time is money, as the saying goes. As such, games, whether simple video games or online casino games, are an effective way to immerse yourself in a world where it’s easy to get that reward.

So operators establish online casinos which offer slots, table games, and online sports betting. These games have appealing graphics, thrilling gameplay, and the chance of high rewards. All you have to do is play it using your desktop or mobile, which is a low-effort action. As such, it seems like a more time-effective way to achieve a need than to complete other activities, like going to work or socializing with people.

DSM-5 Criteria for a pathological gambler
DSM-5 Criteria for a pathological gambler.

The Reasons People Gamble at Online Gambling Sites

We touched on the subconscious psychological reasons for online gambling.  These subconscious reasons are a significant part of our psychological response when playing casino games. As such, you should know and think about it to understand your own reactions better.

You should also examine the conscious reasons people play at online casinos or start online sports betting. These are the psychological reasons you’d actually consider before playing. While there are many reasons, we look at some of the most common ones below.


People play at a real money online casino for entertainment. The games are fun, with appealing graphics and exciting bonus features. As such, they play online casino games for fun. You read excellent iGaming content online and have fun experiencing the new games and quality features these articles talk about.

Experience High Roller Treatment

Some people love the attention and rewards they receive from an online casino or sports betting site. As high rollers, they receive comps, bonuses, and attention from the casino.

The Thrill

Inherent with risking anything you own comes the thrill and adrenaline of it. Gamblers often feel like they won or beat the system when winning, which means you experience the same adrenaline rush adventure activities like skydiving induces without leaving your home.

The Social Aspect

While the social aspect of the best online gambling sites isn’t on the same level as with brick-and-mortar casinos, live casino games can still offer some socializing. When gambling online using a live casino game, you can use the chat feature to interact with the dealer and, sometimes, other payers. There are also poker tournaments at online casino sites and poker rooms which lets you interact with other people who enjoy the same games as you do.

Complete a Challenge

For some people, the best part of playing at a casino site is challenging themselves with games of skill. While slots and some other real money casino games don’t require skills, poker sites are an exception. Poker is a game of skill, and games like Blackjack variants can also be seen as games of skill in certain aspects.

Impressing the Crowds

While there are no real crowds like at land-based casinos when you use online gambling apps, there can still be an element of impressing the crowd. Internet gambling means that if you win money, more than the average amount, like with million-dollar progressive jackpots, your name will likely end up in the news. Many players chase this dream, not only for the money they’d receive but the recognition as well.

Play with a Casino Bonus

Something that’s often unique to online casino gaming is bonuses. Most online casinos offer a welcome bonus and other promotions when you deposit and play with your own money. This sign-up bonus gives you a certain percentage of your deposit as bonus cash funds, which you can use to boost your bankroll or play free games using bonus spins. However, bonus funds expire within a specific period. Sometimes, you can’t use only bonus funds to complete the wagering requirements, as you must substitute them with deposits.

When Does Gambling Become Problematic?

The psychology of online sports betting or gambling online at casinos is a significant issue. The issue is that problem gambling habits are all too common. Below, we look at some of the major signs that you have a gambling problem. 

However, remember there can be many other signs. If you’re starting to wonder whether you have a problem, chances are you’re close to being a problem gambler. So ensure to thoroughly consider the following ones.

Lose More Than Your Bankroll

The first sign is if you lose money which you can’t afford to lose. When playing at an online gambling site, you must decide on a bankroll and stick to it. This bankroll should be money that won’t hurt you financially to lose. If you’re starting to gamble on as many games as possible using the money you can’t afford to use, then it’s a problem.

Spend Too Much Time at a Casino Site

Another problem habit is if you start spending the majority of your day on your device playing real money games. Being on a screen for hours at a time is already concerning, and with that time spent on online betting, it can become even more problematic. Cash games and other real money gambling titles are risky, so spending most of your day on it isn’t good.

Neglect Duties to Gamble

This reason is an expansion on the above one, but more critical. It’s one thing to spend all your free time at many online casinos, but as soon as you neglect your duties to bet at an online sportsbook or play games at the top online casinos, you’re harming yourself. The best online casinos are no substitute for a real job and social interactions, so you shouldn’t neglect those activities for it.

It Impacts Your Health

It might seem obvious, but you shouldn’t play live dealer games or other casino titles to the detriment of your health. You should only pay real money and enjoy instant play games if it’s not affecting your health and you do so in a responsible manner. The psychology of online gambling shows it’s both your mental and physical health you should keep an eye on.

Why do Problem Gamblers Keep Playing Anyways?

Looking at the above factors indicating problem gambling behavior, you might wonder why don’t the gamblers just stop playing? We’ll get into why a gambling addiction isn’t easy to control and the psychology of it. However, first, we’ll look at the primary reasons for them to keep playing. 

The fact that gamblers keep playing after it becomes a problem is what prompts the study of the psychological symptoms. These psychological symptoms are the crux each study examines. This is part of its psychology, as it helps you understand the mindset of pathological gamblers.


We said that specialty games at casinos and other titles are for entertainment, but this often means it becomes a type of escapism. It’s alright if you only use it for escapism briefly, but the problem comes in when you constantly use it for this reason.

Chasing Wins

Sometimes you’ll win money and experience a winning streak. A winning streak is when your wins outweigh your losses, and many problem gamblers keep playing to chase these wins. With many banking options at online betting sites, it becomes easy to deposit more and keep playing to land more wins.

Feels in Control

Games of skill like poker or sometimes blackjack can make you feel in control. Studies show that gamblers feel in control when playing games, primarily when gamblers use strategies, follow sports gambling guides, or experience near misses.

Chasing Losses

Lastly, when playing at the top online gambling apps, you’ll experience losses. However, researchers state that many players keep playing after they should stop since they’re chasing their losses, meaning they’re trying to make up for them. They often believe that if they place more significant stakes and win, they can make up for previous losses.

Claim a Welcome Bonus

The best online sports gambling sites and real money online casinos offer a welcome bonus when you sign up. Some problem gamblers believe if they sign up with one of the top online gambling sites, using the welcome bonus will help them win back money. Yet even the best online gambling site adds wagering requirements and other bonus terms. These terms mean you can’t withdraw the offer easily, leading to problem gambling.

Research Surrounding the Psychology of Online Gambling

The psychology of the iGaming industry and online gambling looks at how it impacts players’ lives. We also look at the consequences of it. That’s what the below psychological study is about.

When playing video poker games, or other online games, it flips a switch in your brain. Researchers want to understand that switch. Below is a study to try and clarify this psychological switch.

Marc Potenza – Yale’s Gambling CORE

Dr. Marc Potenza works with Yale’s Gambling CORE to research how gambling influences a person. They’ve done various studies, and some are still ongoing. However, one of the conclusions Dr. Potenza draws is that there’s a neurological component to gambling addictions. This conclusion falls together with the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), classifying it as a substance use disorder.

DSM-5 Criteria for a pathological gambler
DSM-5 Criteria for a pathological gambler.

This means a gambling addiction is closer to drug abuse than behavioral problems. It becomes a dependence, and pathological gamblers show different brain activity than recreational ones when researchers show them gambling videos.

Dr. Potenza and his team researched varying age groups, races, genders, etc. They use brain imaging software to measure gamblers’ brain activity when gambling or exposed to gambling videos.

However, while pathological gamblers show different brain activity when confronted with gambling than recreational users or non-gamblers, they follow the baseline for brain activity when shown a happy or sad video. This indicates that, like with drugs or alcohol dependence, their brain activity only changes when introduced to the “substance” of choice. In this case, it refers to gambling activities like sports betting or playing at an online casino site.

Dr. Potenza isn’t the only researcher to conclude this. In a paper, “Gambling from Seven Perspectives,” various researchers also conclude that gambling addiction should be viewed as separate from “behavioral” addictions and more like a psychoactive substance. This classification is because cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms characterize this addiction.

Other Research

One of the reasons the psychology of online gambling is an ongoing study is that many researchers disagree about the type of addiction it is. In the research paper “Gambling Disorder as an Addictive Disorder and Creative Psychopharmacotherapy,” the researchers state that it’s indeed a behavioral addiction, though it shares some similarities to substance disorders.

While the DSM-5 classifies it as a substance use disorder, many researchers believe psychopharmacological medications and treatments can be used to treat gambling addicts. Since it has a neurological component, researchers believe opioid antagonists, dopamine reuptake inhibitors, mood stabilizers, and selective serotonin can help treat this addiction.

However, studies have also shown that it’s not always bad if you want to claim that welcome bonus and start sports betting. Studies have also shown that moderate gambling can be healthy in specific cases. Provided you follow responsible gambling practices, you shouldn’t experience a problem. However, we just saw why resisting sports betting or wagering on software providers’ casino games can be challenging.

However, some researchers consider it healthier for people over 65 years to gamble than for people under it. That’s because obsessive-compulsive behaviors are more common in the younger generation.


When you consider the iGaming industry, you must also consider the effects it can have on people. Luckily, many researchers do just that, and so the psychology of online gambling has become a hot topic. We’ve seen that one of the reasons that sports betting and casino sites can be so popular is because it has a neurological component.

That means it affects the way you think and experience something. While gambling isn’t the only activity that can affect you this way, it’s one of the most prominent as the iGaming industry grows and becomes more accepted. While online gambling is meant to be fun, we also saw that too much of it can become problematic. It’s also dangerous because pathological gamblers don’t always know when to stop or are fighting their own subconscious to try and stop gambling.
Understanding the psychological essence of gambling and pathological gamblers means you better understand what to avoid and enjoy online gambling as it was meant to be experienced. That way, you experience the good aspects without worrying about whether it affects you negatively. This is the importance of online gambling’s psychology and the studies done on it. That’s why we thoroughly research the topic to ensure you have a complete understanding of the psychological symptoms and reasonings.

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Chantelle started her career in IT before eventually finding her way into Marketing. This eventually became her passion, along with Digital Marketing, SEO, and Brand and Web Development. Today, she helps businesses find their voice and grow online.

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