It’s not unusual to see a kid who at times seems to be giving all his attention to a gaming console or a mobile phone. Not only is this situation fairly unusual, it’s also not necessarily a bad thing, after all certain games have been proven to provide good mental stimulation.
If however you take a look at the gaming device in question, you would likely be shocked if you were to discover the kid is actually playing a game of slots. Your instant reaction might be to tell the kid to stop or to make the parents aware of this situation.
Of course you’d be right to be concerned if a child is indulging in a game of slots, the game is a fairly aggressive form of gambling and it’s restricted to over 18’s by law, not to mention regulated by gambling authorities. However, the game in question may actually fall into the category of ‘social casino game’.
Social casino games tend to both look and behave like the sort of slots games you’d expect to find at online bingo sites like Rocket Bingo, or Gala Bingo. That is to say, you press a button marked ‘Spin’ and wait for the wheels to stop turning to reveal whether you have won or not.
You may be shocked to find out that social casino games, which are widely available through platforms such as the Appstore are actually legally able to accept children as players. The fact that these games are not considered to be ‘gambling’ by definition means there are no age restrictions in place.
So how come a product that looks like a slot game isn’t considered gambling? That’s a question that lots of people have been asking and it’s only when we really scrutinize the functionality of the game that we find the answer. Unlike the slots found on casino and bingo sites these social games are essentially free to play (up to a point), and most importantly, at no point are players actually ‘wagering’ any money on the outcome of the game. This renders the games as ‘for fun’ gaming products that fall out of the scope of any gambling authorities scrutiny.
Let’s address the statement above that these games are free, ‘up to a point’. Some of the most popular social casino games use a model very similar to other phenomena’s such as Farmville, whereby players extend their game play by purchasing in app credits.
These social casino games are big business, in 2014, they brought in $1.9 BN in revenue and many large operators are making large investment into the market.
The question of whether these games are dangerous for children has been receiving widespread coverage by prominent bloggers and the national press. Critics complain that these games get children accustomed to the thrill of playing slots games and are likely to lead them onto seeking actual gambling products.
The social games industry has been quick to defend the products by stating that at present only 0.15% of players fall into the 11-18 years of age category.
It will be interesting to watch this market, particularly to see if the growth continues and to note whether or not it attracts any regulatory attention.