Gambling is risking money on a chance outcome

By: Prapanna Lahiri

Professor Thomas Clark of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in his book ‘The Dictionary of Gambling and Gaming (Clark 1987, 88)’ defined Gambling as “of or pertaining to risking of money or something of value on the outcome of a chance event such as card or dice game.” According to Clark the activity of gambling essentially has three elements – consideration, chance and reward,

1) Consideration is the money staked which represents something of value,

2) Chance is a randomly occurring risk that may or may not be calculated,

3) Reward is something of value that may be in excess of the value of the consideration.

One is said to be indulging in Gambling when the person takes part in a game during which money or something of monetary value is staked in order to win money or a prize dependent on certain odds which literally means chances of something happening. So the key words here are Odds (chances or likelihood of an event), Risk and Reward. The outcome of the game is down to a chance; so as a consequence of gambling one might leave with less money than one started off with, and sometimes with nothing at all. The likelihood of a given event’s occurrence is mathematically termed probability. In simple terms probability is worked out by dividing the number of specific outcomes with the number of possible outcomes. It is expressed as a number between 1 and 0. An event with probability 1 means the event is certain. The probability of a flipped coin landing either on ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ is 1 since there is no third outcome possible. But the probability of a coin toss landing on ‘heads’ is 1 in 2 since the chance of landing on ‘tails’ is equally likely. Again while rolling a dice the odds of the number six to come up which is a specific outcome against six possible outcomes that are the dice landing on one, two, three, four, five or six. The probability here is 1 in 6. Unless one can foresee the future certainly, the outcome of a rolled dice or flipped coin remains unknown and unpredictable, so we can say that the outcome is random. Randomness means that each possible outcome has the same chance or probability of happening. In gambling despite what a player might think it is not possible to work out or control an outcome which is down to a chance and randomness. So, anyone who tries to control this often ends up risking a lot of money.

In every game of betting or gambling, the “odds” or chance of a person winning a bet always works against that person. The people offering the bet like the casino, bookmaker, slot machine owner etc. always hold the “edge” in so far as the game or the machine is so designed that it always works in their favour to ensure they will in all cases be left with surplus money.

Some common types of gambling where money is risked to win prizes based on chance are:

  • Lottery tickets: Money is raised by selling numbered tickets and prizes are given from the money so raised to the holders of numbers drawn at random.
  • Raffle tickets: Numbered tickets are sold with each number standing a chance of winning a prize earmarked for that number. Copies of these numbers are drawn from a container to give away the prize attached to a number.
  • Bingo: A game of chance (sometimes called Housie outside America) wherein numbers are drawn at random and players match these numbers printed on 5×5 cards. The first person who achieves a specified pattern on the card from the drawn numbers shouts out the word “Bingo!” and wins a pre-announced prize after the claims are crosschecked.
  • Card games: Gambling games that are played with cards like Rummy, Baccarat, Poker, Black jack etc.
  • Casinos: Casino is a public place, sometimes, attached to hotels where a variety of games like Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat etc. can be played. Prizes based on chance outcomes are offered.
  • Betting on sporting events: An amount is staked on predicting the outcome of a sports event.
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