Gambling Dictionary

Understanding gambling terms and how gambling works can help you practice and talk about safer play.

  • Dissociation

    Dissociation is an altered state of consciousness (i.e.: being in the ‘zone’) where a person is disconnected from the outside world (e.g., daydreaming). Some games encourage that more than others, like slot machines. Gambling can become a dissociative-like behaviour for some people if they use it to escape from negative and stressful mental states.

  • EGM

    Electronic Gaming Machines are typically found in casinos. Each one has its own Random Number Generator (RNG) and operates independently from other machines on the gaming floor.

  • esports

    Competitive video gaming that is often broadcast live and open to all ages on platforms like Twitch. Due to its popularity, many gambling operators have opened esports arenas to cater to a growing audience.

  • Fantasy sport

    Participants of fantasy sports create their own virtual team of real-life sports players from a sporting league. They are awarded ‘fantasy points’ based on their team’s real-life game performance statistics. Points are accumulated during the duration of the season. Sometimes these games are played for fun with no money involved. However, there are a few models that do involve prize pools with distinct similarities to single sports betting. 

  • Gambler’s Fallacy

    No matter how many times you press the button on a slot machine, your chances of winning remain identical each time. No matter how many times you roll a die, the chances of you landing on the number four remain identical each time.

    The Gambler’s Fallacy is the incorrect belief that if a particular event or outcome occurs more frequently than normal during the past it is less likely to happen in the future, or that if it has not happened recently it is more likely to happen in the future. In reality, the probability of future events/outcomes do not depend on what has happened in the past.

    Let’s say the previous five rolls have not landed on the number four. Gambler’s Fallacy is the erroneous belief that the next die roll is more than likely to land on four because recently, the die has not yet landed on four. The die has no memory of previous rolls and therefore, previous outcomes have no effect on the current or future outcomes of rolling the die.

    Gambler’s Fallacy goes hand-in-hand with the definition of Independence of Events.

  • Gambling harm

    Gambling harms can have both short- and long-term financial, physical, emotional, and cultural impacts on the gambler, as well as on their friends, family, and community.

  • House advantage

    The house advantage ensures that the odds of you losing are always greater than the odds of you winning. House advantage is the portion of your bet the operator keeps. It differs by game and operator. As you play, always remember that in the long run, the house always wins.

  • Independence of events

    Within the context of gambling, the independence of events means that previous results have no effect on future results. This ties in directly with Gambler’s Fallacy. What happened previously when playing a round of bingo has no effect on what will happen in the next round of bingo.

    Exceptions to Independence of Events

    There are a selection of games where previous results may have some effect on what happens next. These games are referred to as a non-independent game. However, it is important to remember that randomness still plays a role in these games.

  • Loot boxes

    A loot box is an in-game ‘reward’ that is available for purchase in some video games. Purchasing the loot box allows the player a chance to win a mystery virtual item. There is a chance that the loot box item(s) may turn out to be worth less than what you’ve paid. Items are valuable only in the game, but can be sold or gambled on certain platforms outside the game, giving them real monetary value. There are similarities to scratch cards, which require no skill and have outcomes based on chance. Loot boxes are considered gambling in Belgium and the Netherlands.

  • Losses disguised as wins

    These occur when a player wins less money than they bet, resulting in an overall loss. Modern multi-line slot machines celebrate losses disguised as wins in a similar way to that of a true win with lights and sounds.

  • Near miss

    When gambling, a player may experience a near miss. This occurs when they “almost” have a winning hand, spin, or a lottery ticket. When this happens, some players believe that it’s a sign that they were close to a win or are getting closer to a win, even though outcomes are random and the last one has no bearing on the next, or any future outcomes. Near misses have been found to activate the same reward system in the brain as a win.

  • Odds

    Odds are used to describe the likelihood that an event will occur. In gambling, odds are the ratios that define a player’s chances of losing vs. their chances of winning. Odds can also be used to describe the average frequency of a loss compared to the average frequency of a win.

  • Probability

    Probability is an estimate of the chance of winning divided by the total number of chances available.

  • Problem gambling

    Problem gambling is gambling that is done excessively, negatively affecting other areas of a person’s life, like physical or mental health, school or work performance, finances, and/or interpersonal relationships.

    Problem gambling occurs when someone spends more time or money gambling than they can afford. Problem gambling harms at least one life area: relationships and family; finances; physical and mental health; studies, retirement or work. It can also contribute to legal problems.

  • Randomness

    Most regulated forms of gambling involve randomness, which means they are influenced by some form of random events. The numbers generated by a computer, the card being drawn, wheels being spun, all involve some form of randomness.  Simply put – all forms of gambling have an unpredictable result. Random Number Generators (RNGs) are the devices used to create random results in gambling. RNGs are used in slots and digital games.

    Watch PlaySmart’s video on How Randomness Really Works for more information.

  • Random Number Generator (RNG)

    A computer chip inside every slot machine that makes a thousand mathematical calculations per second. As soon as you initiate a spin, the RNG freezes on a random set of numbers that determine the corresponding symbols on the reels, and those symbols appear on your machine. The outcome is determined by the RNG the second you hit the spin button. The spinning symbols just add entertainment to the game. There are no strategies to beat a slot machine because the RNG ensures that every win is random. Each spin is completely independent from the last, and all previous, spins.

  • Responsible gambling

    Responsible gambling refers to gambling that minimizes risk to players. It also involves informed players who enjoy gambling as recreation, and play within limits they can afford.

    Responsible gambling occurs through the collective actions and shared responsibility among many stakeholders, including government, gaming operators, regulators, treatment providers, community groups and individual gamblers. 

  • Simulated gambling

    Simulated gambling are games that imitate the look and feel of gambling but that do not involve real money. Forms include slots, poker and blackjack. These games are often advertised and promoted on social media and can be downloaded as mobile apps. Simulated gambling can also be a form of social gaming that allows for interaction between other players.  Although no real money is involved, prizes can include items that draw players to casino properties, like a free dessert at a casino restaurant, and offers to play for real money. Players can also ‘graduate’ from these sites to paid ones, which is part of what can motivate some operators to offer these games.

  • Skill-based gaming

    Skill-based games are ones where the outcome is partly determined by a player’s skill (e.g., reaction time or strategic thinking). Players benefit from having previous experience playing the game or similar games. It’s possible for some playing styles to be more successful more than once, when playing the exact same players.

  • Single event sports betting

    Wagering on the outcome or in-play events of a single sporting match. Players can place a wager, also known as a bet, on who will win, as well as what will take place throughout the game (such as who will take the most corner-kicks, etc.). 

  • Social gaming

    Playing an online game on a social networking platform. These games are played with, against, or alongside friends in your social network. Some examples include Farmville and Words with Friends, which are played on Facebook. Social gaming can include simulated gambling.

  • Virtual ‘skins’

    In video games, virtual skins are items that can change the look of your avatar/character or its weapon. Skins can be purchased in-game or won in loot boxes. Their value is based on rarity. ‘Skin Gambling’ occurs on third-party gambling websites, using rare skins as a virtual currency. Often, gaming influencers promote skin gambling sites. It’s important to note that the promotional content often focuses on people winning large sums of money and not on the risk involved.

  • VLT

    Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) are found in non-casino environments like clubs, restaurants, and pubs. They’re a lot like Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) but are operated through a central computer system that is shared among multiple machines.

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