Gambling-like games: Is this kids' stuff or a risk to young people?


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Content type
Media release

April 2016

The facts sheet, Is It Gambling Or A Game? identified a proliferation of simulated gambling games that mimic the look and feel of gambling but without the ability to stake, win or lose actual money.

The Institute’s director, Anne Hollonds said people who play simulated games, like poker, the pokies and blackjack were more likely to gamble commercially and to report gambling problems.

“The boundaries between simulated and commercial gambling are becoming increasingly blurred,” Ms Hollonds said.

“There are now opportunities to play realistic games that look and feel exactly like gambling on a host of platforms, including smart phones, tablets, gaming consoles and on social media.

“Money can be used to enhance or extend the experience, which further blurs the boundaries between these two activities.”

Australian Gambling Research Centre Manager, Dr Anna Thomas said commercial gambling operators have begun merging with gaming companies and boosting their advertising of simulated gambling games.

“Young people are being introduced to gambling at a far younger age than in previous generations when to be able to gamble you had to gain entry to a venue, meet dress codes and produce identification.

“Today people are much more likely to have a realistic gambling-type experience at a young age and this may increase the extent to which gambling is seen as normal, acceptable, attractive and relatively harmless.”

Dr Thomas said preliminary evidence suggests that around 20 per cent of adults and adolescents who play simulated gambling games move to online commercial gambling.

“The primary motivator was money, with people moving into commercial gambling in an attempt to win actual money, having learnt the rules from the practice games,” she said.

“People who played simulated games were also more likely to have a problem with gambling. However, it is not clear if playing these games leads to risky commercial gambling, or if risky gamblers simply like playing simulated gambling games.

“One of the known risk factors in the development of gambling problems is the experience of a big win early on. Many of these practice games have been known to provide inflated pay-out rates which may foster false beliefs about the role of luck and chance in commercial gambling.

“The regulatory system for simulated gambling games appears to be inadequate and strengthening the classification of games and adding advisory warnings would provide more protection to users, especially young people.”

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]