Online Games

Free online casino games said to be doorways to real money gambling for young people

Young people who played free online social casino games at higher risks of gambling problems

Scientists have shown through a new study that free online casino games and social casino apps could be a major gateway to real money gambling for young people with people in such age group at a higher risk of gambling problems in the long run.

It is not new in current times to find tonnes of free online casino games that lure more and more young people towards such games.

While traditional casinos and legal gambling websites are out of reach of young people, free online games are open to anyone. Called social casino games, they let people try their hand at casino table games, slots, poker or bingo without betting real money. Like monetary gambling, people place bets in hopes of winning rewards, in this case, points or prizes within the game only. Because these games don’t involve betting or winning money, they’re not legally classified as gambling and remain unregulated.

The new study published in BMC Public Health, points out that 12 per cent of teens in three Canadian provinces said they had played social casino games in the past three months. The findings are from a survey of 10,035 students in grades 9 to 12 (ages 13 to 19) in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. The survey asked about three game types: Internet poker, Internet slots and social casino games on Facebook.

The study also found that adolescents who participated in social casino games were significantly more likely to participate in monetary gambling, either online or land-based forms, compared with peers who did not play social casino games.

As well, 37 to 50 per cent of young people who gambled for money and played social casino games met criteria for low to moderate or high problem gambling. By contrast, roughly 10 per cent of teens who participated in monetary gambling but not in social casino games scored as having a degree of problem gambling.

Scores were calculated using a problem gambling scale created specifically for adolescents, with questions such as how often teens missed activities such as team sports or band due to gambling.

The study also investigated characteristics of young people who play each game type. For example, males were significantly more likely than females to play Internet poker but only slightly more likely to play Internet slots or social casino games on Facebook.

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