Module 2 - What is Gambling?

Traditionally, gambling is when someone risks money or belongings and there is randomness or chance involved.

Common traditional methods are gaming machines/pokies, lotteries, sports betting and scratch tickets.

The purpose is to win a financial or other reward.

Australian federal and state laws regulate gambling.

However, offshore online casinos, games and poker sites are not regulated and can be risky.

Credit card fraud is a risk when people must sign up on an online gambling site with a valid credit card.

Online gambling has significantly increased with mobile devices

  • Online access to gambling can get out of hand quite quickly.
  • Ease and convenience make it simple to spend more time and money than planned.
  • Unknowingly spending more time gambling online can affect a person’s job, personal relationships and health.
  • People often lose track of time, surroundings and responsibilities.
  • Using credit or a linked account instead of actual cash can make it feel less real.
  • It’s becoming increasingly easy to gamble secretly on mobile phones.
  • Mobile gaming and gambling is becoming more of a common, social pastime for young men in their work breaks.


Australians lost $21.243 billion on gambling in 2019-2021 according to the Australasian Gaming Council. The percentage of Australians gambling online increased from 3.9% in 2021 to 8.2% in 2022.

What is gaming?

Gaming refers to playing electronic games through consoles, computers, mobile phones or another medium altogether.

Gaming is a term that suggests regular game play, possibly as a hobby but sometimes for financial return or gain.

With online gaming, there are “loot” boxes, rewards or prizes within the game that can help players advance within the game.

People can also buy more rewards and prizes with real currency – this is where people, particularly young people, spend money.

Mobile phone gaming makes real world monetary transactions easier than other types of gaming consoles.

Did you know... gaming can lead to gambling?

Attitudes towards betting develop long before you can legally gamble.

Previously, people were only exposed to gambling by visiting a land-based venue, e.g. a casino.

Nowadays, the availability of electronic games that simulate gambling makes it more likely young people will be exposed to gambling.

This in turn makes gaming and gambling seem more normal.

Know your odds - The longer you play, the more you lose

But do you know why?

Poker machines vary in the odds they offer of winning a big prize.

In Tasmania the odds of winning a prize can be as low as 7 million to 1.

That’s a 0.000014% chance of winning!

Let's look at a common poker or slot machine

On a poker machine, the reels must spin and stop on one specific combination to award the grand prize.

A common poker or slot machine has 5 reels:

  • 2 reels with 50 potential stop combinations (outcomes)
  • 2 reels with 15 stop combinations
  • 1 reel with 10 stop combinations

The odds of you winning the big prize is (50 x 50 x 15 x 15 x 10) 5,625,000 to 1. That is about 5.6 million to 1 or 0.000018%.


If the jackpot is $5,000 and you may need to play the machine 5.6 million times to win, you’re not likely to win your money back.

Main motivations for online gambling

  • It’s convenient – gambling is easily accessible at any time of day
  • It’s comfortable – gambling is possible from the safety and comfort of your own home. There is no need to go to a land-based venue, which can be too public, smoky, noisy and crowded
  • It’s easy – online sites and games are easy to find, join, and play
  • It’s faster – there are smaller intervals between bets, instant wins, fewer distractions and more anonymity
  • It’s more varied – there is opportunity to multi-task and play several games, do trial and demonstration games, and more varied games, graphics and interactivity.

So why do people play?

Online gamblers often develop skill through demonstration games that teach you how to play. This often leads people to playing gambling versions of the same games with lower odds of winning.

The boundaries between simulated and commercial gambling are becoming increasingly blurred.

For example, some games now look and feel exactly like gambling. Money can be used to enhance or extend the experience, which further blurs the boundaries between online and real-life gambling.

Poker machines and casinos have also begun to include gaming features. Players can move to new levels, and there is more interactivity between the player and the game.

Commercial gambling operators have also started partnering, merging with and buying simulated gambling companies.

Unlike legal commercial gambling, there is little (or no) regulatory control over the marketing strategies of companies offering simulated gambling games. The companies mainly advertise on Facebook and Twitter.

Several studies have shown that people who use simulated gambling games are more likely to gamble than those who do not. It seems that around 20% of adults and youth who play simulated gambling games move to online commercial gambling.

The primary motivator is money: people move from games to commercial gambling to try and win money.