Although many people make a difference between these two expressions, nowadays, gaming and gambling may be used as interchangeable terms.
Many people started objecting to the term ‘gambling,’ used when people play at a casino for real money. It reminded them of something illegal or addictive that can get players into serious financial troubles. So the expression gaming became commonly used by casino goers worldwide.
However, if you take a closer look, you will find that there is a strict division between gambling and gaming, and here, we will try and name some main features that differ gaming from gambling.
The crucial disparity between these two types of entertainment is that you have to spend money to gamble, and you can play various online video games for free.
However, with the emergence of different fantasy games where you can spend real money to buy loot boxes with random rewards that enhance your gameplay abilities or cosmetics, the fine line between video games and gambling games is becoming blurry.
We think that dividing games into separate categories and devoting some time to their descriptions will make things much clearer.
What Are Different Forms of Gaming
It may come as some surprise to you that the first attempts to make something that resembled modern video games date back to the mid-20th century — in the forties, to be exact. But the real boom took place in the seventies when Atari’s Pong video game saw the light of day. This revolutionary event in the digital entertainment industry started a global frenzy for gaming that is still at its peak.
Here, we are going to describe the most popular forms of gaming nowadays. The gaming world has become a seriously profitable market, while various gaming communities are mushrooming all over the world.
Most of us have at least tried playing a video game at some point in our lives, be it on a console, PC, or phone. Video games generate feedback on a display based on how the individual(s) controlling the games interact with the user interface (UI). Video games are traditionally played on a 2D display such as a TV screen or computer monitor, but a new frontier for the industry has opened with virtual reality (VR) technology.
Video games use a plethora of different controllers, which themselves have evolved throughout the years. The primary controllers for PC gaming are mouses and keyboards, of which the latter have a range of different layouts, the main being QWERTY, named after the first letters in the first row of keys. Modern computers have the additional option of plugging in various controllers, but these are more closely associated with consoles.
Commonly seen console controller varieties are Xbox and PlayStation, while the third console giant, Nintendo, seems to innovate its controllers too often for one to be considered the signature. Many may also recognize traditional joysticks, also known as arcade sticks. While these are mostly out of use today, they were a staple in arcades and are still used in many fighting games.
The gaming industry has evolved since its conception, and playing games is a typical hobby these days. Numerous different categories of games are available, but most people associate gaming with role-playing video games.
Role-Playing Video Games
Role-playing video games require players to take on the role of the main character or a group of characters called a ‘party’ and immerse themselves in various imaginary worlds and intricate storylines. They are engaged in completing different complex tasks and quests on their journey to victory.
The history of role-playing video games starts with the widely-known game “Dungeons and Dragons,” which was successfully transferred from paper into the digital form in the seventies. When this video game became successful, it opened the door to other video games to step on the gaming scene, which became a thriving market soon after.
People play these video games to experience what it is like to be a hero that saves the virtual world that surrounds them. The advancement in the game does not solely depend on the completion of different tasks — the gamer can usually advance by joining a crew or by stepping onto a new scene.
Role-playing games were reserved for personal computers only until the first gaming consoles like Nintendo appeared. Role-playing video games available on consoles are somewhat simplified computer versions. Today, when the popularity of RPGs is at an all-time high, you can find different online platforms that offer an endless sea of different RP games you can plunge into when you want to escape reality for a while.
The main thing about playing these video games is that you don’t have to invest real money to obtain different items you need during your gameplay. Instead, you can often collect them as you progress in the game, and then trade them with certain characters for something else or for virtual currency.
We can say that RP games offer a satisfying experience of being a hero who overcomes various complex obstacles to defeat enemies and saves their world. A subcategory that spawned out of role-playing games and became a genre of its own are massive multiplayer online games. As by far the most popular kind of gaming today, these deserve a mention of their own.
Massive Multiplayer Online Games
These forms of video games are quite another story compared to regular RP games. As the name perfectly describes them, massive multiplayer online games involve a large number of players from different parts of the world that participate in a single game as a part of one team/faction or one of the opposing ones. These games concepts usually involve creating a specific virtual world or civilization as a team and then defending it from your adversaries.
The “Air Warrior” MMO is a cornerstone in this gaming branch, and it represents a virtual Air Force battle simulation. This video game dates back to 1984, but it has seriously improved by adding 3D graphics later on.
The MMO games are highly compatible, which means you can play them on a lot of devices that have an internet connection, whether they are a computer or a gaming console.
People first started playing these compelling video games on their PCs. Later on, MMO game developers made them compatible with various gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation as well.
One of the most popular and the most successful MMO games is certainly World of Warcraft, or widely known as WoW. This game gets from 8000 to 9000 new players each month, while the profit from this multiplayer game in the period between 2005 and 2009 was an incredible $2.2 billion. Moreover, at the peak of its glory, it had an amazing all-time peak of 10–11 million subscribers.
Although the widespread notion is that you play video games just for fun and that this is the main difference between gaming and gambling, this is not entirely true. Namely, in the world of MMO gaming, each game has its currency that players collect to exchange for various weapons or boosts they need in the game.
However, the world of virtual currencies started overlapping with the world of real currencies. This interaction first took place between the players and the game developers. With the growing popularity of the MMO gaming market, this interaction moved to the next level and involved game developers and other companies who wanted their share of this profitable market as well.
This is how a new kind of gamers appeared — Gold Farmers, sometimes referred to as real money traders (RMTers). They are players who deliberately pile up large amounts of virtual currency they use in the game to sell it for real money to other people. These people are despised in the gaming community, and this term is considered to be an insult.
So there seem to be some similarities between gaming and gambling because people have started playing various MMO with a goal of earning some real money. Additionally, many games, particularly on mobile devices, include gambling mechanics in the form of loot boxes containing virtual items that players can purchase with real money. Star Wars Battlefront is a recent example of a high-profile game that locked game content behind them, earning criticism from the gaming community. It did, however, correct this issue later in its development.
Role-Playing Games are ones where players partake in a fictional adventure via a predetermined or self-made fictional character. Most games of this variety require a game master (GM), also referred to as a dungeon master (DM).
Players will progress through a storyline laid by the GM, and the actions they choose to take impact the narrative. Role-playing games come in multiple variations, including tabletop games, miniature war games, and live-action role-playing (LARP). We’ll go more in depth with tabletop and miniature war games later, but LARPing is a new addition to the genre many people have come to love.
Like other varieties of role-playing games, LARP doubles as a social gathering. People will fully immerse themselves in their character, physically acting out what their character does, and occasionally showing up entirely costumed. Large-scale LARPs take more time and effort to set up than tabletops or wargaming, which might be the reason for their comparatively low popularity.
A great deal of us would recognize minuscule green army soldiers as toys we used to play with when we were younger. They were even prominent enough to be featured in Toy Story. Miniature wargaming features figurines similar to the army soldiers of our youth.
The games aim to simulate realistic battle scenarios in a tabletop game form. Wargaming can often even provide re-enactments of real-life battles or entire wars. The key parts of the wargaming set are the figurines, used mostly for aesthetic reasons, and the maps the games are played on.
Maps can be printed on a piece of paper or cardboard, and feature markings for hills, rivers, etc. Moreover, some players go to extreme lengths in constructing these maps, modeling them to resemble real-life locations with trees, bridges, houses, etc.
The definition commonly used for this category of games is very loose; it claims any game played on a table or similar flat surface can be considered a tabletop game. While this might be valid, in the gaming community, the term tabletop refers to role-playing tabletop games.
The first, and by far, the most renown game of this kind is Dungeons & Dragons (DnD). It drew inspiration from fantasy literature and gave players an opportunity to live out their fantasy of being a dragon-slaying knight or spell-slinging wizard.
Tabletop games give players the freedom to progress as they wish, with a GM dictating how their actions change the story. The role-play isn’t the only component though, as most games feature a ruleset that must be followed.
Dice are a common way to decide how the actions players take will play out. The roll, together with stats the player has chosen for their character, will determine if they succeeded, failed, or found a half-measure to their act.
Varieties of Gambling
In the world of gambling, there is a clear division between various games you can put your money on. Whether you decide to gamble at an online casino or to play at a casino for real money in Las Vegas, you will come across the following game categories:
Table games can be separated into three distinct varieties based on the medium they use. Card, dice, and random number games are what can be found in most casinos, though there are a few outliers that don’t lend themselves to any of these categories. In the following section, we’ll cover each of these in a slightly more detailed manner.
Card games are a staple both in casinos and at house gatherings. The star casino classic that can bring loads of money to skillful players is poker. The most popular versions of this game are Texas Hold’em and Stud poker games. These games can be extremely profitable to the best poker players.
Another gamblers’ favorite is blackjack because the gameplay is simple, and if you apply perfect card counting strategy, you can end up winning generously. The following are among the most prominent card games enjoyed at casinos worldwide.
A fairly simple game favored by casuals as well as experienced card gamers. Baccarat allows you to bet on the player or banker, a role the casino typically assumes. Once your bets are placed, cards are drawn from a shoe, and the one closer to nine according to the ruleset wins.
Already mentioned before, blackjack is a favored game, both for its complexity and ability to “cheat the system” by counting cards. The goal is to get to 21 by choosing whether you want additional cards after the initial batch is dealt. If you resort to counting cards at a casino, just be careful not to get caught.
An extraordinarily simple card game even a toddler could become versed in. The central rule of the game is simple — the higher card wins. Ties between cards are broken by simply drawing another card and repeating the process.
A direct competitor to poker multiple centuries ago, faro drastically fell in popularity in the early 1900s. The game is quick in nature and starts by laying thirteen cards, one of each value, on the table.
Players could then place their wagers on any of the cards, after which a banker drew two cards. Players lost all bets placed on the first card and won all bets placed on the second card value. There was a high card bet that would win if the second card was higher than the first.
The only people in the world who haven’t heard of poker or one of its variations are the ones living under rocks. As the most popular and competitive card game in the world, poker is sure to remain a mainstay in worldwide casinos.
Red dog, also recognized as yablon, is another fringe game despite the similarities it holds to poker. The game is played with one to eight decks, with each deck included increasing the player’s chance to win.
Teen Patti stems from the Indian subcontinent and is widely spread throughout South Asia. The ruleset shares much with poker, although there are some versions played with jokers that can be used as wildcards (substitutes for any card).
Germany is the country of origin of this game, but the game itself holds numerous similarities to faro. In essence, these games are one and the same, offering a chance to bet on numbers, with winners and losers being determined by two cards drawn from the deck.
Trente et Quarante
A unique gambling game that fell out of favor in North American casinos but is still doing completely fine in Europe. Also called rouge et noir, this game lets players bet on two rows of cards (red or black) dealt by the dealer. Participants can wager on which row will have a higher value, or whether the first card of the winning row will be of the same or opposite color.
Numerous gamblers will opt for dice or tile games rather than cards. This is due to the mostly faster pace of the games as well as the simplicity of just rolling dice vs. playing cards. As one of the most popular forms of gambling, it’s to no one’s surprise that these persist in many worldwide casinos.
Dating back all the way to ancient China, sic bo is still a popular game in Asia and has recently been gaining traction across Europe and North America. It’s purely a game of chance as each roll of the three dice players throw results in either winning or losing bets.
A game derived from sic bo, chuck-a-luck shares the tree dice, albeit sometimes differently shaped. The game also has a smaller amount of possible wagers but is surprisingly fair for the player.
The most prominent dice game played around casinos worldwide. Players get to bet on the outcome of dice rolls, while the basis of the game revolves around getting or not getting the number seven (depending on how you wager).
What separates craps from the pack is the fact that not all wagers will win or lose on each role, so participants can apply a variety of tactics in hopes of boosting their likelihood of a win.
Another game coming from the continent of Asia, pai gow is the first game on our list to feature dominos. Those partaking in the game will choose from a stack of dominos and need to form two hands consisting of two tiles, one called the front and the other rear hand.
The values of the two tiles a player holds are added, which makes up the value of their hand. It’s worth noting that, excluding a few exceptions, the max value is nine, and tens will be subtracted from the player’s total until they reach a single-digit number.
The rarest game we’ll mention and at the same time, the most pellicular. Kauda is a gambling game said to originate from Hinduism and is mostly played in Nepal, though it is an illegal form of gambling there.
The reason we called the game unusual is the object used to play it. Namely, this game isn’t played with cards, dice, or dominos, but seashells. Four players throw sixteen shells to determine their fate. Normally, these games hold high stakes, so some go home as sore losers.
Random Number Table Games
Games involving random numbers are the preference of many gamblers. Releasing all control and anticipating the result releases a copious amount of dopamine, so we can understand why many opt for these sorts of games.
Big Six Wheel
Many variants split the wheel that spins in particular ways, but the essence stays the same — watch the wheel spin and await your award once it stops. Numerous people call the game wheel of fortune, and it’s not hard to see why. This game holds a huge house edge, however, as represented in the following table, which takes into account Vegas rules.
|Bet||# on wheel||Odds||Payout||House Edge|
Roulette is one of the oldest casino staples, and not many people are unfamiliar with it. The game revolves around a ball that falls into a socket of a wheel beneath it. Onlookers can place different bets ranging from exact numbers to one of the two colors on the wheel. The smaller the chance of your bet succeeding, the higher the winnings.
There are a few games that people enjoy at gambling parlors that can’t be placed into any of the categories above.
A game that originates from China and maintains some resemblance to roulette. Theorized to have been conceived during the third or fourth century, it’s to no surprise that the game is fairly uncomplicated.
A stack of buttons or other small objects is placed on the table after which players can bet on numbers one through four. The croupier or tan kun removes the buttons in groups of four until only one batch is left. The number of objects is counted (it can’t be higher than four), and the players who placed wagers on that number win.
Two-up is a basic coin-tossing game. It’s played with two coins and as such, has three possible outcomes: both landing on heads, both landing on tails, and one each. Participants can bet on any of these outcomes.
A cross between gaming and gambling, gaming machines have taken the world by storm, with the most played game, and biggest moneymaker at many casinos, being slots. The games are simple to grasp, and the visuals are ordinarily enjoyable.
One-armed bandits, pokies, cherries, or whatever you’d like to call them, are the greatest draw to gambling parlors anywhere. Giant progressive jackpots bring the chance of solving your monetary issues for the rest of your life, so it’s to no surprise gamblers flock to these.
Technically not gambling, but very technically. Pachinko machines are similar to slots in many ways, but since gambling for cash isn’t allowed in Japan, winners get marked balls instead of bills. These balls can be exchanged for prizes at the parlor, which can later be further exchanged for money at separate businesses.
The curious part of pachinko is that the market is actually more profitable than a few giant gambling industries combined (Las Vegas, Singapore, and Macau).
Video Lottery Terminal
In many ways similar to the two previous gambling activities, video lottery terminals (VLT) feature a random number generator that decides the results. Even though they can be found in many casinos, some places in the USA and Canada still forbid them.
Video poker is a cross between a video game, slot machine, and — you guessed it, poker. The games typically use five-card poker rules and are great for players who want a more relaxing experience than playing live poker. Contrary to popular belief, these machines are impressively fair in most cases, only offering a small edge to the casino.
Random Number Games
The draw to random number games is similar to that of random number table games. The difference is that with the former, you, in many cases, don’t even need to visit a casino to play.
Bingo halls are almost a cultural phenomenon in many countries. Known as places to relax, mingle, and have some fun, bingo attracts those who prefer the modest atmosphere over lavish casinos. As for the game itself, you just get a ticket and cross out the numbers that pop up.
The younger brother of bingo shares many similarities with it. In fact, it’s easier to list the differences. In keno, you can choose a select amount of numbers (instead of receiving a random ticket), which are then drawn in the same manner as other lottery games.
There’s a multitude of gambling games that don’t occur in casinos; we’ll mention some of them. Death Pool is a morbid gambling game played by guessing when someone dies. The comic and movie hero Deadpool receives his name from this game. Scratch cards and pull-tabs serve the same niche, you buy the tickets and damage them to reveal if you’ve won anything.
Lotteries are present in nearly every country around the world and are mostly public drawings with enormous progressive jackpots. Mahjong is a four-player tile game originating from China, which is more of a game of skill rather than chance.
There’s a multitude of other non-casino games, namely:
Liars poker: A game played with U.S. dollar bills, where the goal is to guess how often a particular digit appears.
Bridge: A prominent card game, especially among the elderly. It’s a game of taking tricks, with the person investing the highest value card taking the entire thing.
Basset: An ancient card game from France, which was, in essence, a lottery.
Lansquenet: Another French game, where the dealer deals two cards to everyone and flips cards over until someone gets the same as the first two.
Piquet: Originating way back to the 16th century, this is a two-player game of taking tricks.
Put: The third trick-taking game, this one comes from England.
Razzle: A game played by throwing marbles into a holed grid. The game is, as carnival games tend to be, unfair for those playing.
Hanky Panky: An unusual game, played by trying to pull out all the tissues out of a box only using one of your hands.
Heads or tails: This one doesn’t need an explanation; it’s merely guessing which side the coin will land on. It’s worth noting that it’s played in some Australian casinos.
Shell game: A game in which the shuffler hides a small object, normally a ball, under one of three non-transparent containers. They then shuffle the cups, and the one wagering needs to guess which one holds the object. Commonly portrayed in media.
Three-Card Monte: A game similar to the shell game, played by using cards instead of containers. One will be designated as the money card, and that’s the one players should find.
Backgammon: Among the oldest games we know of, this is a game like checkers where players will move their pieces according to dice rolls.
Liar’s Dice: Revolving around concealed dice, the goal of this game is to guess how many of a certain number another player rolled.
Passe-dix: Additionally known as passage, the point of this game is for the one throwing three dice to get a double with a sum of under ten.
Hazzard: A game with a complex ruleset at first glance. One person throws while the others wager. The throwing participant’s fate depends on the initial number they select ranging from five to nine and their dice rolls.
Threes: Played with a set of five dice, the goal is to roll the lowest value in five throws; threes are counted as zeroes. Rolling five sixes is an instant win for the player.
Pig: A simple game of probability, each participant rolls a die until they either hit a one or make the decision to hold. If they hold before hitting a one, the sum of previous rolls is added to their total.
Mexico: An elimination game where each player invests in a pot, and the lowest-scoring player must reinvest each round. Ones that can’t spend any more currency are knocked out.
In many areas, the preferred type of gambling is betting. It has virtually existed since the beginning of civilization and is deeply ingrained in the culture of numerous communities. As with all gambling methods, there are various subcategories of betting.
By far the most prevalent type of gambling, this kind of betting is commonly provided for both sporting events and others, such as elections or TV show outcomes. Recently, the ability to bet on esports has become commonplace in particular areas.
Millions of people bet on sports each day. It’s become so universal that it’s not even considered gambling by a majority of people. Wagering on games is more prevalent in Europe, with the main target of the bets being football or soccer.
A system of betting similar to fixed odds, used mostly on horse and dog tracks. Participants’ winnings are calculated after all wagers are fixed, and the casino or parlor deducts their cut. The rest is distributed between winners based on their bets.
Not to be confused with esports, virtual sports offer players a chance to wager on hypothetical games that play out differently than in real life. Additionally, virtual games eliminate uncertainty about weather, players not being able to perform due to previous injury, etc.
A riskless gambling system, in theory, arbitrage betting demands you bet on every possible outcome of a situation. Hypothetically, this will let you profit every single time. Unfortunately, it’s rarely possible to place your bets in such a specific way due to odds but may at times be possible because of the plethora of bookmakers available.
Other Types of Betting
Betting between laypeople, not involving bookmakers at all, is also common. People can bet between themselves whether an event will happen or not, if something is true or false, or on specific outcomes of certain activities. Most of us, in fact, have done this with one of our buddies.
Betting exchanges offer gamblers the chance to lay (sell) or back (buy) their odds when betting. That minimizes losses while maximizing gains. Betting exchanges often revolve around discrete events, and profits are mainly generated by taking a commission out of winning bets.
Spread betting provides players with the opportunity to test their knowledge on a further level. Namely, these bets are placed on very specific events (when a goal will occur, which player will score and when), and pay out based on the accuracy of the wager.
The Final Verdict
As you can see, there are different forms of gambling you can try investing your money in hopes of winning big. Nowadays, when the online gambling scene even offers you to play your favorite casino games from home, the number of gamblers has increased drastically. However, most casino goers don’t like when someone refers to their favorite pastime as gambling because it reminds them of the downsides like financial losses or gambling addiction. Ultimately, that’s why numerous people involved in the gambling business replaced the word gambling with the word gaming — a term which doesn’t carry a negative connotation
Regulations regarding gambling are different in every single country, and different time periods bring different laws. For example, loot boxes with hidden probabilities seem to be the next victim of legislation. These laws are put in place to reduce the risk of problem gambling. Illegal gambling is, simply put, any variation of gambling the law doesn’t permit.
Social gambling is any gambling among a group of peers, done in a private environment. Social gambling can be anything from playing games, even ones not traditionally connected to gambling, to placing bets. Though illegal in some cases, it’s challenging to uphold the laws forbidding it due to the private nature.
Gaming, in its nature, isn’t an addiction. Similarly, neither is gambling, but both can, over time, evolve into an obsession. Many adolescents today are falling into gaming addiction, and places to treat it are gaining traction.
Online gaming is just what it sounds like, playing games online. Contrary to what many believe, online gaming doesn’t need to involve playing with other people. Browser games, and games that require an internet connection all fall under the category of online gaming.
Gambling on video games is very much the Wild West right now. Regulation is scarce, and there are a lot of gray areas. However, recently, the e-sports betting platform Unikrn acquired a license from the Isle of Man, which allows it to operate in 20 countries worldwide, including the U.S.
Basically, the answer is kind-of, but everything is going toward regulation and official legalization.
While those two terms are used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference. Gaming has a broader meaning, as it includes all other kinds of games like video games, wargames, tabletop games, board games, pen-and-paper RPGs, etc.
The confusion began when casinos became uncomfortable with the word “gambling” since it evoked a sense of illegality and vice, and then, they decided to replace it with the word “gaming.”
Well, in essence, yes. Most gambling games are considered gaming. However, due to the presence of actual real-world money, gambling games are put in their own category.
Gambling also follows a different set of rules, regulations, and restrictions compared to regular games.
Generally, gambling has an age restriction. In most countries, you have to be 18 to gamble, with very few exceptions.
Video games, on the other hand, have content-based age restrictions. For example, if a game has lots of mature content (e.g., blood, gore, violence, drugs, sexual content, etc.), it might be rated for 18+ or 16+, etc.
It wouldn’t be a great leap of imagination to see a “gambling-like” content restriction on games in the future as well.