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What’s the Difference Between Card Collecting and Sports Gambling?

What’s the Difference Between Card Collecting and Sports Gambling?


Most people view kids and young adults trading sports cards as a fun and wholesome activity. However, for some, the process of acquiring and opening packs of cards may resemble a form of gambling. In their eyes, the collector is taking a chance on the odds to get rare and valuable cards.

Given this interpretation, sports card trading may be similar to gambling activities like casino games or online sports betting. Odds are that if you keep reading our comparison of the two worlds, you’ll have a better sense of how they relate.

Sports Card Trading vs. Gambling

When a person buys a sealed box of trading cards from a hobby store, the consumer usually has no idea what cards they’re getting. Of course, this situation does not solely apply to sports cards like basketball or baseball; other collectibles such as Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering cards also come with uncertainty.

Some of these collectibles display the odds of getting a rare card on the box. For example, a pack with a 1:2,000 odds to acquire a certain parallel means there’s a 1-in-2,000 chance that you’ll pull that valuable card from the box.

Theoretically, these odds mean that one out of every 2,000 packs contains that coveted card. If you’re looking at it from another point of view, getting that card may feel like winning the lottery or coming out on top in a sports betting contest.

Because of these similarities, people have filed lawsuits against some trading card companies. Upset parties argue that what these companies are doing is a form of illegal gambling. These companies, however, continue to defend their position, saying there is nothing unlawful about their practices.

This scenario is somewhat similar to another argument within the video game industry regarding the concept of “loot boxes.” Loot boxes are in-game features in some games where players buy boxes for real money with no certainty of what they actually contain. Some people insist that opening loot boxes and unsealed trading card packs is akin to spending money to bet something of value. Hence, their similarity to gambling.

Furthermore, people may interpret the odds of pulling a collectible displayed on card boxes as encouraging gambling-like behavior.

How Betting Skills Apply to Card Trading

An experienced bettor interested in collecting trading cards may recognize if the value of a potential hit in a pack of cards is worth the money spent actually buying that pack. For instance, does it make sense purchasing a $10 pack just for the chance to get a colorful variant that has a 1:500 odds of showing up?

If, theoretically, someone buys 500 of those packs, will the value of that card justify the cost spent on the packs in the first place?

An experienced bettor may know how much money he needs to spend to acquire a particular collectible. Still, he may need to establish a budget or, if we’re talking online gambling, a bet limit.

Let’s say there’s a bettor with a $500 limit. He may want to bet on odds that give a decent winning chance for that amount. Similarly, a card collector with a small budget should consider buying packs with reasonably valued cards, even if those packs do not contain rare cards.

With bet limits, a bettor does not need to spend more money than he has to win a bet. Likewise, by sticking to a budget, a person collecting trading cards need not pay more than he has to acquire a collectible.

Whether spending money to bet on a chance to acquire cards is a form of gambling or not, many collectors, young and old, consider the uncertainty of opening a sealed box a thrilling experience.

Of course, parents whose children are into the hobby should monitor their young one’s activities and set spending limits so that this fun pastime is never abused.

Naomi Cook is a sports betting analyst with expertise in creating content across different platforms. Cook has broad knowledge in online gaming and possesses betting proficiency for major sports. Email her at

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