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Misleading and Ambiguous Terminology in iGaming – Is It Intentional?

I remember my first-ever full-time writing job clearly as a day. I even remember the ad looking for an iGaming content writer and my confusion when I first saw it. "Content writer" made perfect sense, and it still does. The "iGaming" part – not that much. Of course, I had to Google it to get more info. It slowly became clearer – it had to do something with gambling online. "Why is it called iGaming, then, when gaming is something entirely different," I wondered. As I became increasingly involved in the industry, I noticed how many other terms and phrases were equally ambiguous and – sometimes – even misleading. That's exactly what I want to write about in my latest opinion piece for GoodLuckMate!

Why Ambiguous Terminology Bothers Me

I personally believe that if something isn't clear and easy to understand, there must be a reason why is that so. More often than not, the reason isn't a nice one.

In that regard, I can say that I wish for more clear wording in this industry. Ambiguity doesn't help anyone. It makes consumers feel unsettled and worried. They will never trust the industry again if they ever get into a dispute and lose the case because of such ambiguous and even misleading terminology or rules.

And we all know how fast the bad word is spreading these days.

Moreover, the need for euphemisms sends the message that something needs to be beautified, hidden, disguised. Gambling – online or not – typically awakens negative feelings. So, it turns out we need iGaming. While the activity is the same, the industry seems to be using the public's lack of knowledge to send the wrong message.

When mentioning iGaming for the first time in random conversations, most people think it's something related to video games. After all, that's what "gaming" originally refers to. Everyone will ignore the "i" in front of it, or they will be ashamed to ask what it means. iGaming sounds so fancy that people will even pretend they know what it means to avoid looking uninformed or uneducated.

But for so many people – including myself – gambling is the industry that feels like home.

Thousands of professionals work tirelessly to create fantastic products, improve responsible gambling practices, provide consumers with clear information, offer better self-restriction tools, and so on. When the "iGaming" mask is removed, and "gambling" is all there's left, it looks like we're doing some dirty work.

I don't want to feel like that. I don't want to – in a way – hide what I do. I stand behind my work and believe gambling can be done responsibly. Yet, things are far from getting better; when it comes to the terminology, at least.

Some Examples

Okay, let's start with the main one – iGaming!

When I first started working for iGaming, I did so in a local company whose brand was Interactive Gaming. I was told that it carried the meaning of iGaming. However, you'll also find the term defined as Internet Gaming.

Whether iGaming is explained as "Interactive Gaming" or "Internet Gaming", the definition that follows seems to carry the same meaning. iGaming is partaking in gambling activities online, i.e., on the internet. iGaming is online gambling.

If we have a perfectly clear and easy way of describing the activity as online gambling, why are we even using iGaming?

My thoughts on it are – because it sounds more attractive and dramatic to say iGaming than online gambling. Hobby or not, many people consider gambling a bad habit above anything else. Saying that you work in the gambling industry will often get you sharp looks and even contempt. Saying that you work in iGaming is typically welcomed with surprise and worship.

However, this ambiguity goes beyond this – in a way – main term. There have been various words and phrases that confuse not only the general public but also players. I have to mention the widely used "free spins" and any other bonus type associated with "free",

As anyone experienced and involved in iGaming knows, there are rarely free things in this industry. Yes, you may get so-called free spins, but they often come with rules attached. These rules may make it impossible for the user to get the spins without a deposit. Alternatively, the rules may make it impossible for the user to get anything from those free spins.

In fact, some authorities have discussed and banned this ambiguity and possibly misleading wording. The UK Gambling Commission forbade operators to use "free spins" if any restrictive rules were associated with them. The Ontario regulator also bans using "free" with any bonuses that have requirements attached to them.

From Real Dangers to Real Damage

I am worried that accepting this ambiguity and misleading wording is not only potentially dangerous; I think it has already done some damage.

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don't even believe that there were ever good intentions here in the first place. Someone just didn't like the ring to online gambling and came up with a cool word. Everyone accepted it alongside the practice of coating things in sugar.

Hey, it worked for everyone involved, right?

Um, not quite.

When sugarcoating becomes the standard, someone's bound to get hurt. As I already mentioned, it starts with the little things, like coming up with different terminology here and there. It's not online gambling, it's iGaming. Consumers aren't gamblers anymore, they're players. Online casinos don't give complex bonuses with various requirements; they give free spins and a promise of entertainment.

Well, all these seemingly minor things made someone think of disguising losses as wins. Yes, that's a thing, and an entire study about it was published earlier this year. Named Behavioral Responses to Losses Disguised as Wins: A Field Study of Slot Machine Players, the study reveals how players increase the original bet amount and play faster when so-called Losses Disguised as Wins take place.

A Loss Disguised as a Win is a loss that's so celebrated on the screen that the player feels like a winner; even when the winning amount is lower than the original bet. Meaning, if you bet $10 and win $5, you will feel like a winner even though you've actually lost $5.

Sounds misleading, right?

What Can Be Done to Improve Things?

I generally dislike complaining without offering some specific steps to improve the situation.

In this case, aside from trying to be as clear as possible in my content, I can't do much as one person. That's been my goal since day one, to be honest. I've always wanted to provide honest and useful details to keep players informed.

I try to ensure everyone accepts that gambling is a game of chance. No strategy will make anyone a sure winner. And I try to explain important concepts like RTP and volatility in a way that makes sense. I'm happy to say that the practice is also embraced by everyone here at GoodLuckMate. Our ultimate goal is to give information to readers and educate them so they can make smart choices themselves.

I would like to see terms like "gambling" and "gamblers" used more commonly. Stigmatizing them isn't fair neither to those working in the industry nor to consumers partaking in the activity.

I also hope to see simple bonus rules and easy-to-understand casino T&Cs. Players deserve this! They shouldn't spend hours learning complex terminology and analyzing weird chunks of text just to enjoy their favorite hobby.

Without gamblers, there is no gambling industry. And without the industry, iGaming will become just a fancy word without any real meaning.

This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.

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Milena Petrovska
Milena Petrovska
Last Update: 13 Mar 2023
Milena is second-to-none when it comes to researching, reviewing, and recommending top online casinos. She stops at nothing when it comes to getting all of the facts and figures straight in each of her expert reviews. Plus, having worked as a writer within the iGaming industry since 2014, Milena has seen it all and is familiar with every aspect of online casinos.

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