People with gambling problems can ignore a lot of triggers simply by staying out of a casino or away from a card game. However, it’s exceedingly difficult to steer clear of those triggers when there are free apps right on your phone, literally at your fingertips. Now, people don’t even have to head to a casino to get their fix. These gaming apps and online play opportunities are everywhere: on your iPhone, on Facebook, on your computer and on your tablet.
The games look just like colorful Vegas slot games and casino card games. They’re often popular games, too, the ones that you may leave a casino dying to play right away again, like poker or blackjack. However, with casino apps, players can’t actually win real cash. First, you bet with the free, fake money the game gives you. Then, when you run out of that, you can use your real money to get more play time. Even when you use your own money, though, you still cannot win real money back.
Playing these online games, even with fake money, keeps people addicted to the idea of gambling. For troubled gamblers, betting with fake money isn’t always enough. It may not be long before they head to an actual casino and lose their actual money. Plus, some people who didn’t even have a penchant for gambling in the past can get hooked with the freebie games on their casino apps. The more this becomes an acceptable past time, the more people are developing positive associations with gambling. This process is starting younger and younger, too.
Casino game developers are using celebrities and athletes to endorse their games. When a player sees a game with flashing lights, interesting features and a celebrity they recognize, they want to play that game. Altogether, there’s a recipe for disaster. Electronic gaming has partnered up with sports betting or gambling and the freemium nature makes it seem like the games are risk-free. Young people feel that all gambling, not just with free money on free apps, is bulletproof.
Video games may be taking on a different form – on your phone instead of your TV – but they’re still extremely popular; some experts even think that they’re growing in popularity. Makers of casino games report that their monthly audience is three and a half times larger than the people who visit Las Vegas within an entire year. Between July 2014 and June 2015, there were 145 million monthly, active users cross the globe, not even taking Asia into consideration. Gambling research company Gainsbury predicts that casino app games will attract 269 million people around the world by 2016.
How many people are actually spending their own money, though? Turns out, a lot. In July of 2015, casino games accounted for one-quarter of the highest-grossing apps in Google Play. The App Store from Apple showed similar stats. While the games can technically be played for free, there are a lot of in-app purchases that players are taking advantage of. In just the first quarter of 2015, Zynga had $80.1 million in sales from casino games; Caesars Interactive had $167.6 million. Overall, the social casino game industry increased by 7% during 2015’s first quarter when compared to the same time frame from 2014.
Gambling addiction isn’t the only thing to worry about; video game addiction is a concern as well. Some people say that video game addiction makes them feel depressed, unmotivated and uninterested in the real world. The creators say that it’s not the games themselves that are addictive, but instead certain personality traits in the people who become addicted. Either way, having them so accessible and at the forefront of app stores makes it nearly impossible for people to stay away.
On the flip side, some people who have struggled with gambling addiction have used free gambling apps to manage their addiction. Gambling addicts can get the adrenaline rush they’re seeking without losing any actual money. They can also learn to modify their behavior. For example, they can spend less time on casino games to slowly break their strong addiction. To do this, though, it’s advised that people choose games that don’t have a lot of pop-ups with in-game offers, which could trigger the gambling addiction. Often, addicts don’t have the strength to not make those in-app purchases. It’s also not a highly suggested way to deal with addiction, as people with gambling problems can’t typically limit their interest, which is how the addiction came to be in the first place.
For casual players who don’t mind running out of free money and waiting until the game reloads, which could take up to one day, there doesn’t seem to be a high cost, if any cost at all. For others, the cost is both literal and figurative. Casino gaming apps are costing people real money and the only thing they’re delivering in return is more game time. They’re enticing people to head to actual, live casinos and possibly feed their gambling addiction. The true cost of these free gambling apps ultimately depends on the people playing.