Some people place gaming and gambling into different categories, while others look at them as one in the same. For these latter individuals, both words refer to wagering money at games like pokies, roulette, and blackjack in the hopes of winning even larger sums of cash.
The average bloke tends to refer to the hobby as gambling, because that’s exactly what the definition of the word refers to. Whether they’re wagering money at a land-based casino or in the back of their local pub, they’re not ashamed to admit that they’re gambling.
The gambling industry, however, isn’t too fond of the word “gambling.” They think it presents their customers as greedy deviants and unlucky losers, as well as fostering the idea that casino games are a major risk to the player’s wallet (which is correct). To combat this negative stereotype, they cooked up the word “gaming” and started using it in place of gambling. It makes the process of wagering money sound more fun and less random, which is a great way to draw more patrons into their establishments.
In summary, anyone who uses the word “gaming” around a casino is probably an industry insider. If they call it “gambling,” then they’re likely a regular individual. But either way, they’re talking about the same thing.
For others, the terms “gaming” and “gambling” mean entirely different things. In the next two sections, I’ll define the terms and offer a number of examples.
If someone uses the term “gaming” and they’re not talking about pastimes such as poker or blackjack, then they may be talking about one of the following hobbies:
Video Games – It might surprise you to know that video games were being patented as early as the 1940s. However, it wasn’t until Atari came out with Pong in the 1970s that the video game revolution got underway. Arcades thrived during the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and home gaming consoles by Atari, ColecoVision, and others started appearing in homes in record numbers.
The second half of the ‘80s saw another boom in the industry with the release of the original Nintendo, and advances in technology slowly resulted in the decline of arcades in favour of more sophisticated home systems.
The video game revolution is still underway, as systems such as Nintendo, Xbox, and Playstation amass record sales for home and portable use. The age of the Internet is also involved, as multi-player online games like World of Warcraft bring in droves of new subscribers each year. (See also: Video Casino Games)
Miniature Wargaming – The hobby of miniature wargaming has been around for centuries, and you can still find it alive and well at hobby shops and gaming conventions. Intricate miniature figures comprise entire armies, and players use a complex series of rules to manoeuvre them around detailed landscapes and engage in battles. These armies can take the form of actual troops from history, while others are comprised of fantasy creatures such as orcs and dwarves.
Role-playing Games – Popularized by the release of Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons, role-playing games allow players to take on the persona of a fictional character and engage in all manner of adventures. Numerous genres are available, from horror RPGs such as Call of Cthulhu to sci-fi games like Nova Praxis.
If someone is talking about games of chance, there’s a strong chance they’re discussing one of the following:
Poker – Players compete against one another to make a poker hand with the highest rank. Numerous variations of the game exist, but the current favourite is known as Texas hold’em. This is due to the success of amateur players like Chris Moneymaker at the World Series of Poker Main Event, where the winning individual walks away with millions of dollars.
Blackjack – The objective of this popular casino game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over (and having a higher total than the dealer in the process). The art of card counting can greatly increase a player’s chances of success.
Sports Betting – Players wager money on various sporting events, from football to auto racing. The payout for a win is determined in advanced by fixed odds.
Craps – The player rolls a pair of dice and attempts to throw certain totals while avoiding other numbers. Those not currently shooting the dice can also bet on the outcome. A wide range of betting options is available, and craps is known for its community experience.
Pokies – Called slot machines in other parts of the world, pokies offer various cash prizes for players who match various symbols on the machine’s spinning reels. Pokies have become more advanced in the last decade, especially those featuring audio and video clips from popular movies and TV shows.
Video Poker – The player receives a hand of five cards on a video screen, and they can then opt to exchange one or all of their cards for new ones. In order to win, their final hand must usually contain a pair of jacks or better. With perfect play, the house edge can be eliminated.
Keno – Similar to the lottery, keno allows players to choose a series of numbers. A drawing of 20 numbers is then held, and the player wins money for all numbers that result in a match. In the history of keno, no player has ever matched all 20 numbers.
For some, gaming may mean pokies or blackjack, while others may limit the definition to pastimes such as video games or role-playing; meanwhile, gambling is almost universally regarded as participating in various games of chance, although the connotations of the word can range from neutral to quite negative. Keep in mind these are just terms and whether you game or gamble, most importantly, enjoy it.