Social casino gamers differ from non-social casino gamers in several ways and all research results always show that gamblers who play social casino games are a distinct sub-group of this population.
Moreover, social casino gamers are more likely to be male. However, this may reflect the sample of gamblers used in all studies and indicate that social casino game players who also gamble differ from a more general sample of social casino game players.
Gender-based analyses showed that social casino gameplay followed similar patterns to gambling activities, with women more likely to play social bingo and gaming machine games, and men more involved in poker games.
Research in the wider online gaming field suggests that men are more likely to seek out games that include direct competition, whereas women tend to select games if they involve cooperation and positive social encounters.
Similarly, in the gambling field, women are more likely to play with others and appear to prefer gambling on bingo, which typically features social interactions.
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In a study of mostly male online poker players, winning was the primary motivator for play. This suggests that the various forms of social casino games are preferable to the same demographics that prefer the associated gambling activities, which may indicate that social casino gameplay is motivated by similar factors that motivate gambling.
Social casino gamers are younger than non-social casino gamers, which is consistent with previous researches, and the average age of 43 years indicates that these games are not only used by young adults.
Social casino gamers were more likely to be single or living with a partner than non-social casino gamers, suggesting that this group is either less settled or less interested in the tradition of marriage and reflecting the younger age of this cohort.
The greater likelihood of living in a group household also likely reflects these characteristics, including being a young adult living with parents.
However, social casino gamers were not more likely to be students and were likely to be working full-time. These results are consistent with previous research on social casino gamers, as well as research comparing Internet and land-based gamblers, with social casino gamers showing greater overlap with the population of Internet gamblers.
As these results are from a nationally representative sample of gamblers, they provide important validation of previous descriptions of social gamers. The results indicate that gamblers who play social casino games represent a distinct sub-group, and their younger age suggests that there may be an increasing trend of gamblers also playing social casino games through the next generation.
The most popular form of social casino gaming was poker-style games, which is similar to the international social casino game market. The use of social slot games is also consistent with the popularity of these games internationally.
People deal in different ways with the primitive urge to get our literally mind-altering chemicals flowing: some will literally risk there lives in driving over the speed limit, extreme sports, others do so competing in business, while gambling introduces an entertainment fashion of dealing with risk.
It is interesting to note that a high proportion of land-based gamblers played social slot games given the popularity of electronic gaming machines among land-based gamblers in Australia and the USA.
The results for other social casino games also indicated that a substantial proportion of social casino game players were likely to also gamble on the same types of activities as they played without money. This may indicate that some gamblers are also interested in the social casino game versions of activities they also gamble on. These results are consistent with international research, which found that social slot players were more likely to visit land-based casinos than other social casino players were.
This research also found that the frequency of visits to land-based casinos increased with the amount players spent on social casino games. A study of 1,500 adult social gamers from the US found that 46% of social gamers said that playing with friends is the most important feature to them.
In comparison, gambling is typically motivated by winning, although socialization is an important factor for some gamblers.
Not surprisingly, social casino gamers were more likely than non-social casino gamers to have easy access to the Internet. Nonetheless, given that a high proportion of Australian and US gamblers appear to have Internet access at home and work, lack of Internet access is unlikely to represent a significant barrier for most adults to accessing social casino games.
The finding that a significantly greater proportion of Internet gamblers also played social casino games is also not surprising given that there appears to be a greater degree of similarity between Internet gamblers and social casino gamers, than between non-Internet gamblers and social casino gamers, in terms of demographic characteristics as well as engagement in online activities.
Compared to land-based gamblers, Internet gamblers are likely to be younger, have a positive attitude towards gambling and be engaged in a greater number of gambling activities.
Therefore, the greater gambling engagement and more positive attitudes about gambling held by social as compared to non-social casino gamers may be related to their greater representation among Internet gamblers in the current sample.
The results from this study are consistent with previous studies on young adult and adolescent populations, which found that problem gambling was strongly related to the use of social casino games and are important in demonstrating this relationship in an adult sample. Social casino gamers were more likely to smoke as well as have higher reported levels of illicit drug use, which are both highly comorbid with gambling problems.
Social casino game players also had higher levels of psychological distress, which may be related to higher reported levels of gambling problems, which are often comorbid with other mental health issues including anxiety, stress, and depression.
Alternatively, psychological distress may be related to excessive Internet use, including playing online social games, which has been proposed to represent a discrete mental health disorder, similar to disordered gambling.
The current research does not indicate causality or direction and no non-gamblers were included in this analysis so the relationship between problem gambling, substance use, and mental health issues and social casino gaming needs additional investigation.
The extent to which social casino games contribute to disorder gambling is unknown. As mall survey of problem gambling counselors in Great Britain reported that for some clients, social casino gaming was their first experience with gambling, and some clients reported that social casino games triggered gambling urges and contributed to problems, however, others suggested that social casino games did not cause problems or were even helpful in avoiding gambling.
It is possible that social casino games will encourage misplaced confidence in users that they will be successful at gambling, due to the development of irrational beliefs about the likelihood of winning.
However, it is also possible that individuals who are motivated to gamble are also interested in social casino games, and their problems are related to a range of bio-psycho-social factors, among which social casino games play a minimal role.
Excessive Internet gaming has been proposed to be a similar behavioral addiction as disordered gambling so it is possible that similar underlying characteristics lead to problematic use of these activities.
Some obvious limitations of this research have already been noted; there were no non-gamblers in this sample, so the results only pertain to social casino gamers who also engage in gambling.
All the researches findings show that social casino game use is more common amongst Internet gamblers, although social casino gamers appear to represent a distinct subgroup of gamblers who are younger, male, and more engaged in gambling overall.
The results clearly show that there is a proportion of social casino gamers who also engage in gambling, which is consistent with the growing trend of social casino gaming companies offering gambling and gambling companies partnering with or offering social casino gaming in an attempt to capture this market. It is likely that there will be continued convergence between these two activities, which will have important implications for policymakers.
Social casino gaming is currently relatively free of regulation. However, where it is offered in close proximity to gambling and players are encouraged to start gambling, strong social and public health policies are required to protect players from potential harms.
As the current research showed that social casino game use amongst gamblers was related to elevated levels of gambling harm, smoking, drug use, and psychological distress, policies should be implemented to protect vulnerable populations, including young people and problem gamblers who play social casino games.
Although the evidence does not indicate that social casino games cause harm, gamblers who engage in these games are clearly appropriate targets for harm minimization strategies. Policies to minimize harms may include ensuring that social casino games are clearly distinguishable from gambling, particularly where the outcomes of games do not realistically depict the odds of gambling to avoid misleading players. The use of social casino games should be used to educate players about responsible gambling.
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