The Gambler Psyche from a Malaysian Point of View

In Malaysia, we regularly read about people in gambling debts, harassed by loan sharks and even those who attempted suicide because of gambling.

To better understand the behavior of a gambler, one must first know the different categories of gamblers. The “social gambler” and the “serious social gambler” are relatively mild in their attitude towards gambling. Only the “problem gambler” and the “compulsive gambler” have serious issues related to gambling.

If one were to take gambling as a form of entertainment and not take it too seriously, it would be easy to curb gambling impulses. This is where education undoubtedly plays an important role in educating the general public about the dangers of gambling.

Read any newspaper, and a person will constantly find mention of a gambling-related piece of news. Recently, there is a huge surge of reported cases of loan shark harassment, largely due to an increasing trend of borrowing money to cover gambling debts. However, not all gamblers are faced with such problems or rather, not all gamblers have a problematic and compulsive behavior towards gambling. In Malaysia, the general gambling population can be divided into 4 major classifications, ranging from social to compulsive.

Among all the type of gamblers, the “social gambler” is the mildest of the lot. They gamble occasionally and have a fixed loss limit or a fixed winning amount ahead of time. These are the types who will say “ok, I’ve had enough for today” when the situation calls for it. They are not the ones who will go overboard and are relatively cautious in their approach in gambling. In the casinos, you will find these with the small amount of cash chips, placing bets only after careful considerations. They have a low profile and leaves quietly when they have had enough. In private games such as those private poker nights, these are the ones who place comparatively smaller bets and will fold when the odds are stacked against them.

Taking a notch up from the “social gambler”, the “serious social gambler” gambles more regularly. They are the ones who will suggest a game of poker or a quick trip up to Genting for casino games at the slightest opportunity. Although still cautious in their approach, they love the adrenaline rush and the excitement of a couple of wages on the table. You will find them frequently talking about their gambling experiences but in fact; they aren’t as aggressive as the more “serious” gamblers. A majority will also be found placing bets in 4-D lottery outlets in the weekend, as it is a relatively cheaper alternative for their gambling fix. At this stage, their gambling urges are still in control and they lead their lives without gambling putting a significant effect in their relationship with others.

For the “problem gambler”, theirs lives are largely influenced by gambling. This behavior would have affected their relationship with the people around them negatively. They admit that gambling is a problem in their lives, but is too addicted to it to do anything. Their finances are largely unmanageable and they have serious issues on the personal front. These are the ones who are regularly found at online casino sites or in illegal gambling “associations” secretly tucked away in a corner of the city, and can be there for hours on end, neglecting both their jobs and their families. Whatever income is spent gambled and is frequently either borrowing small sums from the people around them or delaying payments on their commitments, resulting in increasing debts.

The “compulsive gambler” is the most extreme and is one of the most dangerous forms of gambling addiction. They realize and know that gambling is a problem they face but yet puts no effort in curbing these impulses. These are the individuals who have gambled away a large portion of their money and being in dire consequences, turn to loan sharks to finance their ever-increasing gambling addiction. Unfortunately, many of them fall deeper into the gambling “hole” and resort to extreme measures to end the suffering, such as to prostitution or attempting suicide.

Many people do not realize that they have a gambling problem until it is too late. Education may be one of the most important tools to help people realize before things take a turn for the worse. For many people, gambling is a form of entertainment and a form of social activity, placing them in the “social gambler” category. Only when taken as a way to “make money” can it be detrimental to one’s life.


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