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What keeps you gambling

Some gambling products are designed to keep people gambling. Discover the tricks and tactics used by some gambling providers to keep people spending.


Pokies are programmed to deliver results that are designed to keep people gambling. For example:

  • near misses make people think they are close to a win even though there is no basis for this and results do not reflect factors like length of time since a machine last paid out1
  • losses disguised as wins are characterised by flashing lights and celebratory or ‘winning’ sounds that accompany a win, even when the amount of money won is less than the bet, ‘tricking’ the brain to release the feel good hormone dopamine despite an overall loss
  • the speed of play limits a person’s opportunity to assess outcomes/losses before deciding whether to continue gambling.

Sports and race betting

Sport and race betting harms are commonly linked to:

  • inducements offered by bookmakers, such as bonus bets and cashbacks, which encourage increased spending and riskier betting
  • the complexity of offers that combine likely outcomes, such as the favourite to win, with more uncommon ones, such as a large score line or a particular player scoring first, which cause confusion and lead to greater losses
  • fast, easy access to online betting on a large number of sports and events worldwide 24/7
  • the normalisation of betting as a social activity through promotions that, for example, highlight the ‘betting with mates’ feature of apps or imply that participation in events like the Melbourne Cup is central to Australian culture.

Casino table games

Casinos are designed to be flashy and exciting, with lots of noise, lights and other distractions that imply people are constantly enjoying big wins and ‘you’ might be next.

Factors that contribute to people experiencing harm from casino games include:

  • the complexity of many casino games, which require a high mental capacity to follow, combined with limited time to make decisions
  • the speed of play in automated versions of games that reduces the time available for thinking and reflecting on decisions and spending
  • near misses in games like blackjack and roulette, which trigger the brain’s reward system and make people think they are close to winning when they are not.


Traditionally a social game, recent changes to how it works and ways people can gamble on it have increased the risk of harm from bingo. These include:

  • digitisation of bingo through electronic tablets and online options, which mean people can play many more games than was possible with pen and paper
  • jackpots – unlimited in size, linked and rolling – encourage centralised larger games and higher spending with fewer winners
  • the location of free bingo in close proximity to pokies, and breaks between bingo games, increase the likelihood of participation in other, more harmful forms of gambling.