For those who are into games of chance (like cards, lottery, racing, slot machines), just as it is important to know what they are, they have to understand what they are. There are two forms: gaming and gambling. The former is ethical and moral while the latter is not. [In our examples, lottery and slot machines – like bingo – are the latter. Surprise?!]
But, what is the difference between the two? And, why is one not bad while the other is?
First, a game of chance is any game where a participant is playing against odds – be it in the form of other participants or statistical probabilities. In playing a game of chance, one is wagering that one will win, that one has better odds at winning, compared to whoever or whatever the adversary is.
Gambling (per se) is a vice; however, as a means of passing time, of amusement, and where money is not pictured/involved, it is harmless. It becomes bad the moment it causes one to change priorities, to put it ahead of the more important things in life and where it creates a dangerous and overwhelming craving to the detriment of everything else.
But, what makes gambling distinct from gaming is the amount of skill or influence one can exert on statistical probabilities in winning. In gambling, one’s skills or talent play absolutely no part or influence on the outcome – it is pure luck of the draw, hence lottery and slot machines and even the very popular bingo are examples of gambling.
Gaming, on the other hand, is ethical and moral because it requires skills to shift the odds in one’s favor. Winning in gaming is not dependent on pure luck – unless, of course, the player decides not to employ any amount of talent to ensure a better chance of winning (short of cheating).
Although gaming, to a certain degree, may become a vice, people involved in gaming are usually responsible people. Of course, a large determining factor here is culture; there are cultures where gaming becomes a vice either the people are not emotionally mature or there is an environment of poverty. Then, gaming becomes a way of life, which will prove to be detrimental.
The skills and talents mentioned previously (as distinct traits) are common sense and some effort to study and find out certain facts on the game and the adversary in order to gain an advantage and, thus, increase the chances of winning.
A case in point can be playing cards, where some players count the cards that have been dealt to determine what cards are still left unplayed in the deck or they may opt to observe the mannerisms of opposing players (as in poker) and decipher the signs to assess what cards are being held.
Another case can be racing, where the history (performance record) of a racer is investigated and compare with other racers to determine the chances of being or performing better. Other factors considered are the track conditions and major events in the recent past that may significantly impact a racer (like injuries during training, sickness, other traumatic experiences).
Gambling cannot be moral – except under the conditions mentioned earlier (only as a form of amusement, passing time, and no money or any arrangement between players or among the audience that involve liabilities and penalties).
Gaming is a better alternative, but only if the society is largely (and should be a very large part at that) responsible and (economically) not-wanting.