The success of casual games on social media sties could lead to childhood gambling addictions. In a new report published this month, an expert is warning that teenagers are being introduced to the thrill of gambling without the use of real money.
Games like Candy Crush Saga have an addictive quality that pushes gamers to play more, he says.
Many social media sites allow gamblers to play online for free with virtual currency and no age restrictions. Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, said that teachers should ensure their children understand the benefits of gambling but also the inherent risks.
“One of the biggest predictors of whether people become gamblers is the playing of gambling-type games on free-play sites,” Griffiths asserts. “When you start winning, you start thinking that if I was playing with real money, I could be doing quite well. Children who play those free games are more likely to gamble and more likely to develop problem gambling behaviors. These are gateway activities that can lead people down the gambling road.”
Many games also allow users to customize their on-screen persona by spending money on virtual items. Griffiths said this sometimes allows players to fall into a trap: “It’s a psychological masterstroke that people pay money to buy virtual items. The next step is for gambling firms to say, ‘Maybe you could win back some of the money you’re spending.’”