Industry Reports

Free Social Casino Games Could Make Transition to Real-Money Gambling Easier, New CAMH Study Says

A new research has found that teenagers who played social casino games for free were much more likely to start gambling for real money both in retail facilities and online. Such adolescents were also more likely to become problem gamblers when they are older.

The results of the study, which was carried out by the Centre for Addiction and Mental health (CAMH), showed that 12% of the respondents of the survey aged 13 to 19 had played social casino games over the past three months. Despite the fact that Canada’s gambling legislation bans individuals so young from entering land-based casinos and gambling for money on legal gambling websites, there are still some games which could be played for free on the Internet.

Such free games, which include slots, casino table games, bingo or poker, are also normally available to persons of all ages as they do not offer real-money wagering. Instead, players do not get a cash equivalent of their winnings, which are usually points or prizes in the game only.

The CAMH survey engaged 10,035 students aged from 13 to 19 in the provinces of Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan and asked them about three major game types, including online slots, online poker and social casino games available on Facebook.

According to one of the authors of the study, Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall, it remains unclear whether adolescents start playing free social casino games and then start gambling for real money in casinos, or they do both. However, the results of the research showed that playing social casino games may “build excitement for gambling”, which could eventually encourage the transition of such players to real-money gambling at a later time.

Social Casino Games Rise in Popularity among Under-Aged Individuals

Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall further explained that apart from the possibility of facilitating the transition of young adults to gambling in brick-and-mortar casinos and online, free social casino games could mislead them about their luck or chances of winning while gambling, as the chance of winning while playing such games is usually bigger than in actual gambling.

“It is important for young people, parents, teachers and others to be aware that these risks exist.” – Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall

According to the results of the research, 37% to 50% of the respondents who placed real-money bets and played free social casino games showed signs of problem gambling behavior varying from low to high. Just 10% of the adolescents who have gambled for real money but have not taken part in social casino games showed a degree of a gambling addiction. As it comes to under-aged individuals, problem gambling was determined by the frequency in which teenagers missed extracurricular activities, such as team sports or band, because of gambling.

Researchers from CAMH also shared that the results of their research are based on the responses to the Youth Gambling Survey from 2012/2013. They were worried that considering the constantly increasing number of social casino games over the past five years, the latest survey findings may under-represent the number of adolescents who currently play social casino games.