A new study published by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada indicates that free gambling-themed games may be a gateway to paid gambling for young people, and game play is linked with a higher risk of gambling problems among some adolescents.
Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall, scientist in CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, explained more about the findings. “Adolescents’ participation in seemingly risk-free social casino games is a concern because we know that early exposure to gambling activities is a risk factor for developing gambling problems in the future,” she said.
According to CAMH, 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.
“While it’s not clear whether young people begin in social casino games and move to gambling for money, or if adolescents who are gambling for money also seek out these free games, there is evidence that social casino gaming may build excitement for gambling and encourage the transition into monetary gambling,” added Elton-Marshall.
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.
Elton-Marshall also stated that social casino games may have higher odds of winning than monetary gambling, giving young people the false impression that they are luckier or better at gambling. “It’s important for young people, parents, teachers and others to be aware that these risks exist,” she said.