Are All Real Money Games A Form Of Gambling?

Is playing games for real money gambling?

This can be an important question for many of us from a number of perspectives.

And the answer is not always clear cut. So let’s consider a definition…

Gambling is the betting or wagering of money or goods (and maybe even services) on the outcome of an event in the hope of winning money, goods, or services.

So if we consider that in relation to real money gaming then the initial answer is ‘yes, of course it is’.

But that’s a high level point of view. If we consider our four main categories of real money gaming we’ll see that there are reasons withing each whether the term ‘gambling’ or ‘gaming’ best applies.

Certainly any game that involves the betting or wagering of money where pure luck determines the outcome will fall into this bracket. Casino gaming is a perfect example.

But what about skill-based games?

There’s an argument that says not….and in fact that’s an argument that’s born out by some regulatory bodies classifying games of skill so that they fall outside of gambling-related laws.

When you’re using skill you’re in control. The word investment springs to mind. You’re investing in an activity to achieve a desired outcome.

So is it gambling?

I think the question should be – ‘does it really matter?’

There’s a stigma associated with the word gambling, and arguably rightly so in some specific situations. The label could in fact help some of us recognize and come to terms with a problem that can have far reaching consequences.

But personally I don’t believe that stigma is right. There’s nothing wrong as such with gambling…..unless it controls you.

There are some notable professions, situations, and events where it can benefit you to be under some form of control of course, but generally anything that controls your actions with potentially negative results is not going to be good for you.

And that’s what gambling can do. It can control your actions on an almost subconscious level.

The trick of course – and I recognize this is easier said than done for some of us – is to be consciously in control. This is possible to achieve – although not for all of us admittedly. To get to that position, you need to be aware of the risks…..and what you can do about alleviating them.

Gambling vs Gaming – What’s In a Word?

Gambling’ versus ‘gaming’. Two words in a combination that’s intended to (or is attempting to) form a distinction, and one that’s being used increasingly often in the real money gaming (you see what I did there?).

But why? At high level, gaming and gambling are accurate descriptions of two distinctive forms of entertainment in their own right, aren’t they?

  • Gaming – referring to the playing of video games. ‘Harmless’ and a sign of our times, a new-ish playful word with no dark connotations and no obvious hint of risks. Almost anyone can do it. 
  • Gambling – the age old ‘black’ art of trying to win something by risking something, a dark word to some. Bringing the potential of harm, and connotations of underhand dealings. Illegal in some jurisdictions, in the main precisely for those reasons.

The ‘issue’ – and the one that’s relevant here – is the use of one or the other to label what we do when we’re playing real money games, or talking about the activity…..

…and that ‘issue’ is that they’ve become somewhat interchangeable, with the associated risks that one becomes normalized (where we don’t necessarily want it to be) and the other becomes degraded or downgraded (into something we don’t want necessarily want it to be).

It’s an issue from a number of perspectives, particularly social and legal ones. As we shall see…..



So is the interchangeable risk of using gaming to describe gambling and vice versa really a risk? 



The Legalities…and Why

Gambling is heavily regulated in various regions of the world, and for some very good reasons. Some admirable, and some not so. These might include: 

A genuine intent to protect residents from gambling-related harm

Misguided attempts to protect residents from gambling-related harm

Financially driven intents to keep money within those regulatory jurisdictions


So we can probably all recognize the admirable one out of these three, and – to an extent – debate the worthiness of the others. To fall back on our intent to take a balanced viewpoint, we’d have to at least acknowledge the argument that keeping money – that debatably would be spent anyway – within the regulated environment has benefits. These might include; 

Enhanced legal protection for gamblers intent on gambling

Increased financial well-being for the jurisdiction itself







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