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What are the Differences Between Gaming and Gambling?

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Gaming is a broad umbrella term for a number of types of play or activity. It includes gambling in many of its contexts, but the term can be broadly applied to non financial transactions in this respect also. It can for example include online video games – such as multi or massive multi player role playing games – that can sometimes use real currency. Genuine cash is sometimes used in these games to buy items such as spaceship engines or guns or swords, for example.

Sometimes, players who fight opponents may pilfer their belongings in this context. If a fight has taken place in a sorcery or fantasy game, for example, the loser of that fight may also lose his or her weapons. In this sense, gambling has taken place and a zero sum outcome has resulted in one player benefiting from another’s loss.

Often, strictly speaking, there is no gambling or wagering taking place in these games, but game resources such as an avatar’s health or armor can be enhanced by buying it for actual hard cash.

However, although profits can be made by the players from games and virtual worlds such as Second Life, actual gambling is rarely found. Virtual world currencies are sometimes exchangeable for actual cash, but it will be a fraction of “real world” money. Gamers in these games would not usually consider themselves gamblers.

American game show Jeopardy! (online version)
Image of the American game show Jeopardy! (online version)

Gaming sites of other kinds, allow people to wager money that they have placed in an online casino’s account associated with that member of the gaming community. They may be allowed to play certain games – such as game shows made popular on television – in order to win a cash prize. They often compete against fellow members of the gaming community for a share of the pot. For example, twenty people may compete in a version of the game of Jeopardy.

Each player may pay five dollars or more to play the game itself, while the top six players will then share in a pot, with increments added on for each placing. The game’s champion will take the lion’s share of the pot, the second best will get the next highest amount, and so on. Other versions of the game will allow one player to play another – one on one. Games such as this can be regarded as what’s known as zero sum games. These are games where one player or more must lose while another or more players benefit.

In other games – the video games alluded to earlier – there are frequently losses incurred by the “gamer”, but they may be virtual losses rather than real world, actual financial losses. Frequently, in Massive Multiplayer virtual environments, bartering systems can take place whereby one character may exchange one item for another.

For example, a wizard avatar may exchange an axe for a piece of bread with a barbarian. The axe has greater value to the barbarian, who can inflict more damage with it on opponents, while the bread is better suited to the wizard who may require sustenance or stamina in order to cast powerful spells.

However, the word “gaming” has become so prevalent when referring to the activity of gambling that it is used by official bodies to control the practice. For example, the Nevada Gaming Control Board regulates gambling in the state of Nevada, demonstrating the close relationship between these two terms.


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