Gambling – why is it so, well, addictive?

Who hasn’t played the lottery before? We all do it, we all say we don’t expect to win, yet if we truly believed it, why do we spend our hard-earned money on it? Because somewhere, deep down, we do think we’re going to win. We watch the tv on a Saturday night (or check the numbers the next day for those lucky enough to have a life on a Saturday night!) and still get the slightly elevated heart-rate, tingling in your fingers whilst gripping on to your ticket, waiting for your numbers to flash up…and then experience the gut-wrenching disappointment when they inevitably never do. Or, very occasionally, the overwhelming excitement of winning £10, quickly followed by the comedown when you realise it’s still not the £1,000,000 you secretly hoped it would be. So why do we do it?

Well, I actually know (or, should I say, knew) someone who has won the lottery in the past few months. In fact, it was one of the biggest wins ever in Britain at £46,000,000. And I used to be in the same class as him at school. And possibly, even worse than that, I had recently been asked out by his best friend, who has just received a best-friend bonus gift of over £1,000,000. Sucks to be me! (Is it too late to get in contact do you think…?)

With another lucky winner having a large lottery influx just before my schoolmate in the same city, my hometown started being toted in the press as being ‘lucky’, and I began to wonder if some of this so-called ‘luck’ might have rubbed off on me. Which has led me, for the first time in around 5 years, to play the lottery tonight.

I decided I’d buy my tickets online (as it’s clearly too much effort to get up and actually go out mid-day on a lazy Saturday while watching old ER episodes back-to-back), but there was only one problem – you have to deposit a minimum of £5 and tickets are £1 each. I assessed my laziness, and decided to go ahead with this – I spent £2 on two tickets, and decided to spend my remaining £3 on the instant win online games…a rocky road, I’m sure you’ll agree.

However, I was amazed (or, deep down, was I half expecting/hoping for it?) to find that I began winning – very small sums, a £1 here, £2 there…until the big one. £5! Now, I had a dilemma – at £6 left in my online lottery funds, do I pay the money back into my account, or keep playing? Thankfully I did the sensible thing (bearing in mind, I am a graduate on a less-than-graduate salary) – I drew my £5 back out (effectively getting tonight’s tickets for free) and would play with the last remaining £1. I was sure to win, wasn’t I? I’d been on such a winning streak so far…

I didn’t win. And then I felt it – the mild disappointment, the small hole of emptiness of knowing that my chances of winning the big money had vanished and, more scarily, the desire to transfer more money in my attempt to win. At that point, I closed the site down, and hid my purse from myself until the sensations subsided, vowing to giving the gambling a break for a while.

Until tonight, of course, where I still have my two lottery tickets. And, failing to find myself a life this Saturday night, I’ll be there, in front of the tv, waiting and secretly half-expecting to see my numbers flash across the screen. Will I win? I doubt it. But there’s still that hidden part of me, deep down, that isn’t quite so sure…

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