The article is the first in a series of papers to present and analyse the meaning that is ascribed to the notions of ‘gambling’ and ‘gambling games’ in the gambling law provisions of selected European countries, as well as to confront the normative meaning with gambling characteristics from the perspective of social sciences. The following parts of the paper analyse examples of those provisions which do not contain any term for a broad catalogue of gambling activities, as well as selected provisions containing legal definitions of ‘games of chance’ (‘games of luck’). The article mainly uses methods of comparative law. The presentation of the characteristics of gambling from the perspective of social sciences is based on the achievements of social scientists. The research is based on the following research theses. Firstly, regulatory models in which the gambling law provisions specify the characteristics of gambling without indicating a name covering a collective category of gambling games in the definiendum are rare. Such solutions are typical for countries which have so far pursued restrictive gambling policies. Secondly, both in the legal systems in which there is no legal definition of gambling under gambling law and also against the background of the definitions of legal games of chance, one may notice significant differences in the way in which individual features of gambling games are specified, i.e. the dependence of the outcome of a game on chance, player’s financial involvement and the winnings.