How does gaming work?

It’s a good idea to understand the facts behind the way gaming works – learning about factors like odds, randomness and the house advantage. Finding out more about these things will help you understand gaming and how to take part more responsibly. Gaming is essentially a game in which you risk money (the stake) in order to win a greater amount of money or a prize. The element of chance is usually the deciding factor so it’s important to remember that you could walk away with nothing.

What is randomness?

Randomness is something that happens by chance, with no plan or purpose. Effectively, during gaming, randomness means that no one can accurately predict what combinations or results will occur. Each outcome is as likely as all of the others. History is littered with so-called experts who believed they had discovered a ‘system’ with which to defeat randomness, but this is impossible and no such strategies exist. You cannot beat the random factor!

What about probability/the odds?

Probability refers to the chance that a certain outcome will happen in a given situation. This can be expressed as odds. For instance, should you roll a dice and wanted the five to come up, there is only one ‘specific’ outcome. However, there are six ‘possible’ outcomes because the dice could land on one, two, three, four, five or six. Therefore, the probability of landing that five would be expressed as odds of 1 in 6.

What about the house advantage?

The house advantage is what the casino, bookie or gaming machine operator uses to give them the edge over the player. Mathematically, the house advantage offers a measure of how much the house expects to win, expressed as a percentage of the player’s stake. For example, in a game with a house advantage of five per cent, the player will lose, on average over time, £5 for every £100 staked.

What’s meant by the ‘return to player’?

The return to player (RTP) is the term used by gambling operators to describe the percentage of money staked during a game that will, over time, be paid back to the player. For example, if you played 100 £1 games on a machine on which the RTP is 80 per cent, you might expect to win back around £80. However, RTP – like the house advantage – is calculated over the long term. There is no guarantee of any outcome in the short term, so it’s wise to only gamble with money you are prepared to lose.

Is a game skill or chance?

This is a question that has often divided opinion. There are some forms of gambling that clearly constitute games of chance, while others do involve some element of skill. Games of chance include the National Lottery weekly draws and scratchcards, gaming machines, bingo, and casino games such as roulette. Games (non-machine versions) that involve an element of skill include Poker, Blackjack and betting on the outcome of sporting events.