Much research is being done into gambling addiction, problem gambling behavior and related issues. You might think that this mainly happens to provide governments with arguments. The Ludomaniacs like to use them to regulate gambling in their country. Unfortunately, the opinions of researchers differ greatly and sometimes even contradict each other. The research fields do not make it much clearer. One scientist looks for addiction behavior in the family situation, another looks at the gambling environment and another examines the substances in our brains.

Substances in your brain

Perhaps there is a connection between the research fields. However, the substances in our brains seem to have the most convincing influence on our (gambling) behavior , not only in the casino but also at home during a gamble on that new Netent slot.

Your brain plays a role in everything you do. Raising an arm to pull the handle of a slot machine starts in your brain. As well as walking, chewing and all kinds of other activities. And whether you are happy is also arranged there. To this end, billions of nerve cells ( neurons ) in your brain communicate continuously with each other. This communication takes place with small electrical currents between those cells.

Dopamine and Serotonin

The currents are helped by neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the proper communication. There are many of those fabrics, each with its own function. The two most important in gambling studies are dopamine and serotonin. If you find this interesting, this article on the brains of gambling addicts is also worth reading.

For convenience, dopamine is called the pleasure or reward hormone. Your brain produces dopamine when you do things for which you deserve a reward. When the slot machine hits three bells, not only does money fall into the box or you get a lot of points with your total. A wave of pleasure also shoots through your body, thanks to the production of dopamine. According to researchers, that enjoyment makes you want to continue playing, even more than your material profit. You want to experience that pleasure kick again.


Serotonin, the other neurotransmitter, seems a bit more complicated than dopamine. It is also a hormone that can make us happy. You could say, not quite rightly, that dopamine is produced by something outside of ourselves. For example, if the roulette ball lands on the number you have chosen.

You can then say of serotonin that it is produced by something in ourselves. For example, when fear prevented you from visiting a busy casino hall. If you do it anyway, and it turns out not to be frightening, then the serotonin will make you proud of yourself. The nervousness with which you might still enter the casino room disappears and is replaced by a happy feeling due to the production of serotonin.


Your brain is active all day long, even when you sleep. As a result, the values ​​of your dopamine and serotonin fluctuate. If you’ve just been rewarded by your brain for a win at the poker table , there is a little more dopamine. But there are also circumstances where your dopamine level is a bit lower than normal. And so does the level of serotonin.

Too low a level is therefore also referred to as a shortage. A shortage of dopamine or serotonin can be temporarily troublesome (e.g. a night’s sleep). But too great or long-term deficiency can have unpleasant consequences. With dopamine, for example, anemia, eating disorders and trembling limbs, with serotonin burnout, depression and low self-confidence.

Several studies have shown that the stimulating effect of dopamine and the calming effect of serotonin can both counteract and reinforce each other. Too much dopamine and a shortage of serotonin, for example, intensify feelings of depression. The best thing is a good balance between dopamine and serotonin.