All About Gambling

Everything you need to know about gambling, including what it is, how it works and some of those myths you may have heard about!

What Makes Gambling, Gambling?

We all know the obvious ways to gamble, like betting on horses or playing slots at the casino. But what about sports betting, fantasy leagues, scratch tickets, online poker, or DIY investing? All those things are gambling, too.

Basically, gambling is any game of chance or skill in which you stake something valuable for the potential of winning even more. For example, you might risk a couple bucks on a lottery ticket for the chance at winning a multimillion-dollar jackpot. Or you may feel that your favourite sports team is on a roll, and want to put money on them to win.

But remember, gambling always has two things in common – an element of risk and an unknown outcome.


Which of These Things Are Gambling (Hint: All of Them)

  • Electronic gaming machines
  • Wagers on games like Majhong, Gai Pow and Tambola
  • eSports and fantasy sports like DraftKings or FanDuel
  • Sports betting , in-person or online, like single bet, parlay or in-play (live) gambling, or sports pools around the Super Bowl or March Madness
  • Online gambling like casino games or live poker
  • Bets between friends
  • Lotteries like LOTTO 6/49 or LOTTO MAX
  • Card games like poker or Blackjack
  • Instant games, like scratch cards or Nevada tickets
  • Bingo
  • Casino games, like slot machines
  • Horseracing
  • Stock market speculation

Hold On! Is This Gaming or Gambling?

So, you love online gaming. It’s fun, it can make you a faster and more critical thinker, you can play with your friends, all while immersing yourself in a new, unknown digital world. Pretty cool, right? But did you know that online gaming and online gambling have a lot of similarities?

Think about it. Gaming and gambling are both available on your smartphone or computer. Both have elements of skill and chance and both are super-stimulating. In fact, some gaming platforms incorporate “gambling-like” elements, like loot boxes, which are actually considered a form of gambling in some countries.

Understanding the nature of gaming, gambling and the potential problems is a great way to make informed decisions about your play. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Video Gaming

    Ever found yourself gaming for hours when you swore you were going to do something else with your day? That’s because video games are designed for maximum continuous play. 3D and Virtual Reality graphics, colour and sound, and of course levelling up, all add to the appeal. Not to mention the added excitement and competition when you’re playing against friends. But playing too much or too often can impact physical and mental health, friend and family relationships and school or work (or both).

    In order to keep you interested, gaming platforms often offer you in-game currency to play with. There’s often even stuff that’s really close to actual gambling, like using real money to purchase chances to win random rewards. Anyone who’s played Fortnite knows what we’re talking about.

  • Online Social Casino Gaming (SCG)

    Online social casino games are those free-to-play games (Doubledown Casino, Slotomania, Zynga Poker) you find on social media platforms, like Facebook, that simulate gambling activities. It can seem pretty harmless, but here are some features and negative impacts you should probably know about.

    SCGs are accessible all over the place, like on social networking sites, websites, apps, smartphones and tablets.

    Because you can play at no monetary cost, these games are hyper-popular, but they can also introduce young adults to traditional gambling activities within the game, with simulated gambling features. It’s not technically gambling, but there are things like the chance to wager virtual coins (which you may have purchased with your hard-earned money!) on some seriously tempting virtual payouts.

Odd Question: What Are Odds?

Basically, “odds” is the term used to describe the chances a person has of winning.

In gambling, odds are expressed as the number of chances there are to lose for every chance there is to win. For example, if a hundred people enter a draw, there are ninety nine chances the winning ticket won’t be theirs (they lose) and one chance that it will be theirs (they win). So the odds are 99 to 1 (99 chances to lose and 1 chance to win).

Often in gambling, the more chances there are to lose, the bigger the potential win. That can be tricky because people want to play more when the jackpot is bigger, but they might not realize that their odds of winning are smaller.

Something else to keep in mind is that, in all gambling, the odds of winning are less than the odds of losing, which guarantees that the house always wins in the long run. More on that a little later.

Games of Chance vs. Games of Skill

Some gambling is completely based on chance and some is partly based on skill. Here’s why.

There are two types of gambling games, based around either Independent or Dependent events.

Independent events are events where the probability doesn’t change no matter how many times they happen. Think of the coin toss before a football game. If the ref flipped the coin five times, the odds of flipping heads on the first try would be the same as flipping heads on the last try. Basically, whatever has happened before won’t affect what will happen next.

Dependent events, on the other hand, are events where the probabilities change depending on what’s happened before. Poker is a good example. Depending on what cards have already been dealt, the probabilities of other cards coming up change. Like if three Kings have already been dealt, it’s less likely that a King will be dealt next because there’s only one left in the deck, as opposed to four when the deck was fresh.

We know, we know. That was complicated. Thanks for hanging in there. Here’s where it gets simpler. Games based on independent events, like Roulette or slots, are entirely random. Games based on dependent events, like sports betting or poker, can involve some skill. But don’t be fooled. No matter how much skill you have (or think you have), the house still always has the advantage.

Some Odd Things More Likely Than Winning

1 in 3 million

A person has a 1 in 3 million chance of sighting an UFO. That’s almost 5 times more likely than winning a lottery jackpot.

1 in 56,439

You are more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 56,439) than win the lottery. Almost 250 times more likely.

1 in 4,096

The odds of winning the top prize at maximum coin play on the slot machines ranges from 1 in 4,096 to 1 in 33,554,000.

The Weird and Wild Science Behind Gambling

When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited. The strange thing is, your body also produces dopamine when you lose.

While some of us are able to walk away when we lose, others might keep gambling to win back the money they’ve lost, fuelled by that dopamine rush. That’s called ‘chasing losses’. And people who chase losses may begin to develop problems with gambling.

Research by Brain Connections explores how gambling can spiral from being fun to experiencing problems. Watch the video below for more information on how your brain and body can affect the decisions you make around gambling.

Truth Bomb

The House Always Wins in the Long Run

You may hear friends talk about their “wins” but rarely do you hear about their losses. Here’s the truth … no matter what type of gambling – lottery tickets, online poker, playing a slot machine, or putting together the best players for your fantasy sports team – many people play but only a few win. So if you’re buying a weekly lottery ticket, while there is a (small) chance of winning, over time you will likely end up spending more money than you will win.

HOT TIP! In every betting game, the odds are against the player. And that means that the house is absolutely, with no exceptions, without a doubt, okay we think you get it, guaranteed mathematically to “win” over time. Let’s say that again. THE HOUSE IS GUARANTEED TO WIN OVER TIME. That means the longer you gamble, the more likely it is you will lose.

You may win in the short term, but over time, the ‘house’, a.k.a. the betting establishment or operator, always wins. That’s because they have a mathematical advantage over you, called the ‘house edge’. House edge is basically the difference between ‘true odds’ and ‘payout odds’. True odds are the likelihood of an event occurring. For example, the true odds in roulette are 38 to 1. But the casino’s payout odds are 35 to 1. The house edge is how betting establishments make their money, and it’s baked into every game. So even when players hit a jackpot, over the long run, if they keep playing, the casino comes out on top.

Common ‘Myth-conceptions’ About Gambling

Minimizing Risk

When gambling, odds are, over time, you will lose more often than you win. The best thing to do is make a plan to limit harms.

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Beat the Randomizer

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Check Your (Re)Flex

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