February 7, 2023 3 min read


Psychologist Explains How Sports Betting Apps Become Addictive

A psychologist explains how immediate enjoyment, easy availability, and other factors compound together and make sports betting apps addictive

And, although the picture is much more complex, and gambling addiction is not a new discovery, sports betting apps still have a few more tricks up their sleeve to increase their appeal to users.

Sports Betting Apps Are Addictive by Design

An article shared in The Conversation detailed Meredith K. Ginley’s – Assistant Professor of Psychology at the East Tennessee State University – analysis of what sports betting apps do to make users pick up their smartphones and spend extra money, while also feeling good about it. Ginley’s article shed light on which distinguishing characteristics make apps uniquely addictive.

The proverbial Joe who spent extra after his sports betting app sent him notifications for prop bets on minute details from his favorite team’s match was put under the microscope. It turns out, having a casino in your pocket is dangerously similar to having an in-person gambling venue in close proximity to your home or workplace, for example.

There’s also the immediate enjoyment of placing a bet on your favorite team, and also – in winning. Ginley’s article detailed how a player might feel good about picking the winning team, for example, and that might even overshadow the fact that he has lost more than his winnings through the additional bets that the app sent him notifications for.

The disregard for actual losses and the satisfaction of picking the right team might seem like conflicting experiences, however, the brain still receives its dopamine boost, so the behavior continues. Another reason this happens is that sports betting apps are “gamified”, meaning their design makes them feel like games, rather than gambling portals to the user’s bank account.

Problem Gambling is Still an Addiction

Problem gambling is similar to other addictions. Ginley’s article in The Conversation even outlined how the brain activity of frequent gamblers when shown images related to gambling is close to the reaction to cues such as alcohol, cigarettes or cocaine. This is indicative of how deep problem gambling goes and goes to show that gambling has an innate addictiveness to it.

However, a person’s temperaments and unique characteristics also come into play, as the risk/reward mechanism that gambling triggers affects people differently. The connection between risk-taking and gambling has been studied for years, and although a causal relationship might be debatable, it’s clear there is a close relationship between the two.

This is where tools that help combat problem gambling such as awareness campaigns, limiting exposure, and imposing limits on deposits, spending, and losses come into play. While there is a wide variety of responsible gambling tools, it often still falls on the user to either select an app that supports these types of measures or actively seek help.

Social stigma, along with several other social factors, however, make the latter more difficult, so prevention is still the best bet for having gambling and healthy people coexist sustainably. As usual, this often starts with the government, so sensible policies and trackable enforcement should probably also be in the conversation when discussing gambling.


Kyamil is a big tech fan, who loves hummus on everything and has enjoyed writing from a young age. From essays, through personal art, to news pieces and more serious tech analysis. In recent years he’s found fintech and gambling collide with all his interests, so he truly shares our core passion for the entire gambling scene and furthering the education of the mass citizen on these topics.

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