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  • April 18, 2024

Decoding the Distinctions: Understanding the Fine Line Between Betting and Gambling



Placing a bet is a pastime that has been enjoyed since the dawn of human civilization. Today’s online gambling industry is worth about $70 billion and is growing at a compound rate of about 11 percent per year, even more in gambling heartlands like Australia. Clearly, placing a wager is as important a part of the human condition today as it has ever been. But, what do we actually mean when we talk about betting and gambling?

The words are often used interchangeably, and their usage can overlap. For example, a gambler might place a bet, or you might go into a betting shop to gamble. It sounds confusing, so let’s see if we can bring a little clarity.

Gamblers take a chance on luck

We mentioned the online gambling industry a moment ago. It comprises online gambling games like slots, craps or roulette and sports betting platforms. Our distinction between the two words here gives the first clue as to the distinction.

Let’s look at the gambling games first. Suppose you are one of those gambling-loving Australians and you pick up your phone to browse the best mobile casinos in search of a game of chance. You might choose a slot game like Starburst or a casino classic such as blackjack or roulette. Let’s say you choose roulette. Now, will you place your wager on black or red? High or low? Even or odd?

Of course, the answer to that is it doesn’t matter, the chances of winning or losing are the same and there is no way to predict where the ball will stop. The same principle applies with slot games. The Return to Player is published for every game, so you can use that to help decide which game to play, but beyond that, whether you burn your bankroll, hit the jackpot or finish somewhere in the middle is down to chance.

Betting – where expertise can make all the difference

Now suppose instead of hitting the gaming tables you try sports betting and place a bet on a forthcoming horse race – to stay with the theme, let’s say it’s Australia’s flagship race, the Melbourne Cup. Which horse will you back? Will you back it to win or to place?

If you know nothing about horse racing, you might as well pick a horse because you like its name, or just back the bookie’s favorite. But if you are an expert who has researched the form and studied the conditions at Flemington, you will have your own ideas, and can probably spot a horse with generous odds that stands a good chance of placing.

It’s all about what you know

So, we see the key distinction between gambling and betting. In our horse race betting example, the seasoned expert can use his or her knowledge and skill to inform how to bet and will do better in the long run than a novice betting at random. The same applies to other types of sports betting from soccer to eSports.

In our gambling example, a complete beginner can stand at the roulette wheel alongside someone who has been playing for years and both stand an equal chance of success.

Still, there are other games that straddle the two disciplines. Card games like poker and blackjack are good examples, as a shuffled deck places everyone on equal footing, but you can use knowledge and experience to play your cards in the optimum way. Ultimately, gambling is all about chance and betting involves using your knowledge to make smart wagers. But in both cases, it makes sense to know the game as well as possible from the outset.