Online Gambling and Online Gaming: What’s the Difference?

by Tim | May 28, 2021

Online Gambling and Online Gaming: What’s the Difference?

If you’re new to the world of online gambling, you may not be sure what the difference is between online casino games and other kinds of online gaming. In this article, we define what each is, before taking a look at the differences and similarities.


What is online gambling?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines gambling as “the betting or staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident, or have an unexpected result by reason of the bettor’s miscalculation.

“The outcomes of gambling games may be determined by chance alone, as in the purely random activity of a tossed pair of dice or of the ball on a roulette wheel, or by physical skill, training, or prowess in athletic contests, or by a combination of strategy and chance.”

Online gambling is true to this definition too, except that, naturally, online gambling takes place over the internet instead of in a casino, a gambling hall, or your mate’s house.

A few examples of online gambling games include:

While people can gamble for any manner of valuables, the stakes in online gambling are always some form of currency, whether that’s traditional money or cryptocurrency.


What is online gaming?

Referring again to Encyclopedia Britannica, online gaming is defined as “electronic game playing over a computer network, particularly over the internet”.

From this definition, it’s clear to see why some people get confused between the two – after all, doesn’t this classify online gambling as an online game? The simple answer is yes. However, there is one key difference: in the majority of online games, players aren’t playing for a payout. Most people play games online purely for the experience, whether that’s the joy they get from playing with their friends, or the thrill of competing with other players in cyberspace.

A young man plays an online game on his computer.

There are many more differences and similarities between online gaming and online gambling. Let’s take a look at each of these.


The differences between gaming and gambling

There are three main differences between these two experiences:

Online gambling involves wagering, while online gaming does not – This is the major difference between these two activities. When someone gambles on the internet, they place a wager with the hope of winning some money. People typically play online games for a number of other reasons, including social needs, pure enjoyment, or to scratch a competitive itch.

Online gambling is predominantly about chance, while online gaming is predominantly about skill – When you gamble, whether you win or lose is predominantly up to chance. You will have little to no influence on the outcome of the wager. By contrast, when you play video games, what determines whether you win or lose is predominantly your skill at the game. That means you can learn the ins and outs of a game, practise it, and improve your overall skill. There are some exceptions to this, in that there are gambling games which combine luck with an element of skill or strategy. Two examples are poker and blackjack.

Online gambling offers a different experience to online gaming – Again, there are exceptions to the rule, but in most cases online gambling is very different to online gaming, purely from a gameplay perspective. These internet-based gambling games include online casino experiences such as slots, card games, dice games, and even bingo. Online gaming, meanwhile, involves simulated shooting, fighting, puzzle solving, racing, strategy, and many other different genres.


The similarities

An e-sports team has started their match.

Some online games have started to include elements of online gambling – There has been some controversy in the gaming industry recently, regarding the use of loot boxes in games. Typically, loot boxes can be bought with real money, but players don’t know what they’re going to find inside them – think of them as the digital equivalent of a lucky packet.

This practice used to be a common way to fund free-to-play games, but in recent years loot boxes have also been included in games that people have paid for. These loot boxes are similar to gambling in many ways, resulting in some countries banning them outright, or starting to investigate whether these randomised virtual boxes cross over into the realm of gambling.

Then there’s also the fact that some online video games allow you to play casino games within the game world. For example, players in Grand Theft Auto Online can purchase in-game credits with real money, which they can then spend at the virtual casino in the game.

You can gamble on some competitive online games – Competitive online gaming, otherwise known as esports, has exploded in popularity over the past few years. As a result, a growing number of esports betting services have appeared. Just as with sports betting, gamblers can place a variety of bets on their favourite team or player. Some of the most popular esports games include League of Legends, Dota 2, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, and Rocket League.

Certain sites allow you to play online gambling games free of charge, minus the potential for a prize – Some social gaming sites, or even the sites run by casino game developers themselves, allow you to play gambling games online without having to place a bet. Naturally, this means you won’t be able to win a prize, but it blurs the lines between online gambling and online gaming even further.

Some gambling games include elements of video games – Online slots are increasingly being influenced by other games. While the core experience stays the same, mini-games and bonus features are starting to include video-game-like elements. For example, in the Ghostbusters Level Up Plus slot, players “level up” as they win and work their way through levels. The game also offers numerous bonus games, in addition to the standard bonuses such as free spins.

Both can be social experiences – Whether you’re enjoying gambling or video games online, both experiences can offer you a way to connect with other people. The social experience will differ from game to game, but many gambling and video games offer text-based chat rooms, voice chat, and other tools for you to build relationships with other players who enjoy playing the same game.


These gaming experiences are coming closer together

While this may not be true for all games in both online gambling and online gaming, some developers have embraced aspects of each to improve their offering. Will this trend continue or will it die out? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Enjoy online gambling in the UK while you’re on the go

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