The increasing convergence of the gambling and gaming industries has raised questions about the extent to which social casino game play may influence gambling. This study aimed to examine the relationship between social casino gaming and gambling through an online survey of 521 adults who played social casino games in the previous 12 months. Most social casino game users (71.2%) reported that these games had no impact on how much they gambled. However, 9.6% reported that their gambling overall had increased and 19.4% reported that they had gambled for money as a direct result of these games. Gambling as a direct result of social casino games was more common among males, younger lsm99 users, those with higher levels of problem gambling severity and more involved social casino game users in terms of game play frequency and in-game payments. The most commonly reported reason for gambling as a result of playing social casino games was to win real money. As social casino games increased gambling for some users, this suggests that simulated gambling may influence actual gambling expenditure particularly amongst those already vulnerable to or affected by gambling problems.
Social network gaming, which refers to playing games that are connected to social networking services (SNS) directly, or through mobile applications (apps), is a popular online activity. Social network games (SNG) are generally free-to-play and do not award monetary prizes, but users can make in-game purchases to advance within the game, customise the game, give gifts to friends, and access other exclusive benefits and features, leading to these games being referred to as ‘freemium’. Although SNG are connected to a SNS and encourage users to interact with their connections, most SNG can be played without any social interaction. SNG have grown rapidly in popularity and the global SNG market is predicted to grow annually at 16% from 2013 to 2019 to reach a total market value of US$17.4 billion (Transparency Market Research, 2015). A survey of Facebook users in Australia in November 2012 reported that there are over 3.5 million social gamers across Australia and almost 70% play SNG daily (Spiral Media, 2013), and it is highly likely that the use of SNG has increased since this time.
One of the most popular and profitable SNG genres is games that simulate casino or other gambling (or betting) activities. Such games are referred to as social casino games (Gainsbury, Hing, Delfabbro, & King, 2014). These games generally appear to replicate the basic structural design of gambling activities (i.e., betting mechanics, chance-determined outcomes), but are free to play and the prizes awarded are generally virtual currency that has no value outside of the game. Thus, while they resemble gambling activities, they are not legally classified or regulated according this category (Owens, 2010).