Horse betting is rarely considered dangerous from a gambling perspective. After all, pathological gambling stories where the problem gambler loses everything rarely focus around horse betting. Sure, people have been known to become addicted to sports betting and casino games, but rarely ever to horse betting.
But, betting on the outcome of a horse race can, and does, have the same effect on the mind of the gambler as it does betting in a casino or sports betting. The difference is that horse racing is considered a sport, going to the tracks to watch the race is a social event, despite the rise of online betting and OTB – off track betting. In turn, no one thinks to look twice at the possibility that horse betting can lead to gambling addiction, and this oversight has and can affect a lot of people.
Horse race betting is a dangerous form of betting, and below, we have several reasons why.
1. The act of placing bets is an addictive challenge
Experienced betters know how much calculation goes into a single bet. Of course, there are social gamblers who would place a bet on a horse only if they are at the tracks with friends and colleagues, and everyone else is doing it. But experienced betters claim that behind every win stands a lot of time, effort and dedication. It’s not only about placing the right bet, calculating the right odds. If you wish to win, you need to get familiar with the races, the horses, and find every piece of information about the upcoming race available. The difficulty of the task increases if you are placing a bet on a handicapped race, where the horse needs to overcome its handicap in order to win, making it more difficult to calculate the outcome successfully to place the right bet. But for many gamblers, the calculation is just as addictive as the act of betting itself.
2. OTB and online betting effect
In the past, you needed to attend a race track, and could place bets on the horses only if there were betting stations where you could do so. For many stadiums, this was illegal and prohibited. However, today, a horse race enthusiast does not need to live near a race track, nor does he need to attend. Off the track betting, or OTB, made it easier to place bets over the phone or at a booking store, and today, every online betting website offers horse races betting amongst sports betting, and one can place a bet on horses from anywhere in the world. This makes horse race betting just as dangerous as any other form of betting and online gambling.
3. Cumulative winnings
When you think of horse race betting, the first thing you imagine is betting on a horse to win, place or show. Then, there are the more exotic bets for bigger winnings, like exacta, trifecta, and quinella. But, you can also place a bet to lay a horse, where you don’t bet that the horse will win, but that it will lose. The concept is very simple – you win as long as the horse loses. Usually, the winnings are smaller, but they can be quite addictive, as on the surface, it seems like an easier bet, an easier win. Many people think that they can profit off of betting to lay a horse. This can lead to a false impression of gaining cumulative winnings that can make you break even after you have had a string of lost bets, and thus make a person want to keep betting even if they did not win any bet before that.
4. Immersive entertainment
Horse racing is a sport, and for many, this is the most attractive aspect of betting. You not only get to play a game of chance, you can also enjoy an immersive form of entertainment, which can even be a social event with friends and colleagues. It is easy to hide a problem in entertainment, especially if there is a local track where everyone you know has attended a horse race at least once. If you mention going to a casino many people would raise their eyebrows because there is only one thing a person can do at a casino – gamble. But attending a horse race at the tracks gives the same impression as attending a basketball or a football game, in other words, as nothing unusual. So, even if the person has a problem with betting on horse races, they can hide this fact from family members and friends and keep going until it’s too late.
5. A gateway to gambling addiction
One thing has always been certain – in order to gamble at a casino, in order to place a lot of bets, you need money. Horse race bets can vary from as little as $2 to $20 or more, depending on the odds and the type of betting. And you couldn’t play a decent poker game with only $10, but you could place five bets on a horse race. Sure, you will not win a lot of money with a $2 bet, but you can play. You can place your bet, get your ticket, and watch the race, anticipating the outcome, just like you would anticipate the spinning of the reels at a slot machine. Of course, with a slot machine, you get your result within a minute, while a horse race lasts longer, which means that the period of anticipation is longer and the act of betting that more exciting. Before you know it, it’s not about the money, the winnings, but about the act of playing a game of chance. It becomes a gateway to gambling addiction, especially if you are susceptible to compulsive behavior.
Sometimes, betting on horses is just the beginning of being plunged into a gambling addiction. No matter how safe it might seem, horse betting can be just as addictive and just as dangerous as any other form of gambling. And problem gambling is becoming more and more spread worldwide, with online betting and online gambling at our fingertips. Safer Gaming, an organization out of Malta that’s dedicated to raising awareness about gambling addiction, explain on their website how gambling addiction is just as difficult to defeat as any other form of addiction, and it’s just as big of a problem.