Online gaming and online gambling are activities that many people engage in, yet they serve different purposes and fall under different regulations.

Clearing up the confusion between the two is more than just semantics; it touches on issues of legality, social impact, and financial stakes.

Online Gaming Defined

Online gaming often refers to playing video games through the internet or any network available.

These games can range from simple text-based games to games featuring complex graphics and virtual worlds populated by many players at the same time.

The online gaming market includes several genres such as strategy games, first-person shooters, and massively multiplayer online games (MMOs).

Types of Online Games

  • Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs): These are large games that allow for many players to play at the same time in a virtual world. Games like “World of Warcraft” fall into this category.
  • First-Person Shooters (FPS): These games focus on combat and shooting, emphasising a first-person perspective. “Call of Duty” is an example of this genre.
  • Casual Games: These are usually simple games that can be easily paused or picked back up. Examples include mobile games like “Candy Crush.”

Online Gambling Defined

Online gambling involves wagering money on an event with an uncertain outcome, with the intent of winning additional money or material goods.

Online gambling typically takes the form of sports betting, poker, or casino games.

Money is often directly involved, and the outcome is reliant on chance, unlike most online games that rely on skill.

Types of Online Gambling

  • Sports Betting: This involves placing bets on the outcome of sporting events. This could be as simple as betting on the winner of a single match or as complex as betting on specific stats and occurrences during the game.
  • Online Poker: Participants compete against each other rather than playing against the house. Poker games vary in the number of cards dealt and shared, the number of hidden and community cards, and betting procedures.
  • Real Money Online Casino: This includes a variety of games like slots, blackjack, and roulette, where players can bet and win real money.
    Distinctive Features

Financial Involvement

In online gambling, the central feature is the involvement of real money or assets. You place bets with the aim of winning more than you wagered.

On the other hand, while online gaming may involve in-game purchases, the primary aim is entertainment, not financial gain.

Skill vs. Chance

Online gaming largely depends on skill. Players get better the more they practice. Conversely, online gambling often depends on chance.

While there are games like poker where skill can influence the outcome, the majority of gambling activities are luck-based.

Regulatory Environment

Online gambling is heavily regulated, requiring licenses and adherence to specific laws for operation.

Age restrictions are strict, ensuring that only adults partake in gambling activities.

Online gaming usually has fewer regulations, though age ratings and in-app purchase warnings are common.

Social Aspect

Online gaming often emphasizes community and interaction between players. Many games have built-in chat functions and encourage teamwork.

Online gambling can be a more solitary activity, although chat functions and live dealer games in online casinos are blurring these lines.

Outcome Metrics

The success in online gaming is often measured through progress in levels, points, or achievements.

In online gambling, success is more easily quantifiable through monetary gain or loss.

Payment Methods

Online Gaming: In the sphere of online gaming, in-app purchases often employ the use of digital currencies or game-specific tokens.

These are generally purchased with real money but are confined to the ecosystem of the specific game.

Payment methods typically include credit cards, digital wallets like PayPal, and sometimes even cryptocurrencies.

Online Gambling: Payment methods in online gambling are designed to handle real-world currencies directly.

Commonly accepted forms of payment usually include credit and debit cards, bank transfers, and digital wallets that are capable of currency exchange.

Some online gambling platforms also accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment, offering a different level of anonymity and security.

Time Commitment

Online Gaming: Time investment in online gaming varies significantly depending on the type of game.

Some games, especially MMOs, can require long hours to master or to achieve specific goals. However, they also often offer the flexibility to enter and exit the game at will.

Online Gambling: The time spent on online gambling activities is usually shorter but more intense.

For instance, the outcome of a round of blackjack or a spin on a slot machine can be determined in a matter of seconds or minutes.

That said, the preparation leading up to placing a bet can be extensive, especially in sports betting, where analysis and strategy can take hours or even days.


Online Gaming:Accessibility options for online gaming have been expanding, especially with the introduction of mobile gaming.

Now, many online games that were initially designed for PC or console are also available on mobile platforms, allowing for gaming on the go.

Online Gambling: Online gambling platforms also offer high levels of accessibility, especially with the development of mobile-friendly websites and gambling apps.

Some platforms even provide a more streamlined experience on mobile, with specialized apps that optimize the user interface for smaller screens.

User Experience

Online Gaming: Online gaming platforms often invest heavily in creating a visually and aurally engaging experience for the players.

This can include high-quality graphics, atmospheric sound design, and intricate storylines. The aim is often to create a deeply immersive environment.

Online Gambling: In the domain of online gambling, the focus is usually less on visual spectacle and more on functionality and ease of use, ensuring that players can place bets or play casino games with minimal complications.

However, trends like live dealer games are adding more immersive elements to online gambling, improving the user experience.

Blurring Lines

Some online games now incorporate gambling-like mechanics, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ where players can pay real money for a chance to get valuable in-game items.

This has led to discussions about the need for regulation and the ethical implications of these mechanics.


Online gaming and online gambling both offer engagement and participation but serve different interests and legal considerations.

As participants or spectators, it’s important to distinguish between the two for a responsible and informed interaction.

The next step is personal: evaluate what attracts you to either and proceed accordingly.