Will gambling make it as a sport?

Can gambling ever fall under the definition of sport?

In recent years there has been an undoubted explosion in the number of people playing poker all round the world. For concrete proof of this, one only has to look at the record numbers who attended last year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas as well as the growing popularity of online poker in countries where it is permitted.

In fact the game has become so popular that there have even been suggestions that it should be classified as a sport. What's more, seven years ago poker was accepted as a mind sport by the International Mind Sports Association, and this decision has been officially ratified by Brazil. Meanwhile in China the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports has also authorised a number of poker tournaments, implicitly suggesting that they consider it a sport too.

world series poker

Some have looked at the growth of poker and speculating that if it makes the transition to sports status then couldn't it also be a possibility for other casino games like roulette? Betting is becoming such an integral element to fans' enjoyment of all sports from football to cricket as well as the longer established world of horse racing that it would seem logical that games that are all about gambling should also be strong contenders to achieve sporting status.

But, of course, it's not that simple and the example of bridge may spell out some of the problems that poker, roulette and other casino games could face. In October 2015 there was a High Court ruling which found that the card game could not be classified as a sport. The English Bridge Union, who were behind the efforts to get it made into a sport, were motivated by the fact that it would have become eligible for government funding if they had succeeded. It could also have been considered as an event in the Olympic Games.

While this might have set a legal precedent there may be a counter argument that games are usually considered to be activities that are played for fun, while sports offer the possibility for professionals to make a living from them. Many players all round the world earn enough from their poker winnings to live on and some even manage to win fortunes. In this respect, therefore, it does satisfy this distinction.

On the other hand, there is an equally widely-held belief that a sport involves physical activity and skill, has a set of fixed rules and is competitive. All of these qualities do play a part in poker, but perhaps the most debatable is the definition of physical activity. While players do need to pick up and turn over cards, they're unlikely to expend much energy doing so. Yet there are certainly are other accredited sports including snooker, darts and target shooting that involve very minimal exercise.

It is by no means a cut and dried argument and is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, but what's for certain is that, whether or not gambling does become a sport, many millions will continue to enjoy it every single day of the year.

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