Gambling, the betting or staking of something of value, with the consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident or have an unexpected result by reason of the bettor’s miscalculation.
The outcomes of gambling games may be determined by chance alone, as in the purely random activity of a tossed pair of dice or of the ball on a roulette wheel, or by physical skill, training, or prowess in athletic contests, or by a combination of strategy and chance. The rules by which gambling games are played sometimes serve to confuse the relationship between the components of the game, which depend on skill and chance, so that some players may be able to manipulate the game to serve their own interests. Thus, knowledge of the game is useful for playing poker or betting on horse racing but is of very little use for purchasing lottery tickets or playing slot machines.
A gambler may participate in the game itself while betting on its outcome (card games, craps), or he may be prevented from any active participation in an event in which he has a stake (professional athletics, lotteries). Some games are dull or nearly meaningless without the accompanying betting activity and are rarely played unless wagering occurs (coin tossing, poker, dice games, lotteries). In other games betting is not intrinsically part of the game, and the association is merely conventional and not necessary to the performance of the game itself (horse racing, football pools). Commercial establishments such as casinos and racetracks may organize gambling when a portion of the money wagered by patrons can be easily acquired by participation as a favored party in the game, by the rental of space, or by withdrawing a portion of the betting pool. Some activities of very large scale (horse racing, lotteries) usually require commercial and professional organizations to present and maintain them efficiently.