Aristocrat told investors in November that players worldwide spent $953 million ($1.4 billion) in in-game currency in the stable of social casino games in the previous fiscal year.
The Australian company now derives almost half of its revenue from games through in-app purchases – including across genres – where repeat play is encouraged by design. It invested heavily in its Pixel United mobile game division, spending $480 million ($704 million) on user acquisition last fiscal year.
“There was reliable evidence that participation in simulated gambling … was associated with experiencing gambling-related problems.”
Dr. Rebecca Jenkinson, Australian Gambling Research Center
Australians spent $80 million in the mobile casino-like gaming sector in the second quarter of 2022 alone, app store analyst Data.ai reported.
According to the Longitudinal study of Australian childrenone in five adolescents aged 15 and 16 has played simulated gambling games, including casino table games.
Dr. Rebecca Jenkinson, executive manager of the Australian Gambling Research Center, said the apps could give users, especially teenagers, unrealistic expectations about winning at gambling.
“Social casino games look and sound real like poker machines – when a win is registered, the screen lights up and the same sounds go out – but because the operators don’t have to pay out real money, these games are often programmed to give money. out more wins than real casinos,” said Jenkinson.
“Evidence from our research has found an association between playing these games and harm, and the harm we observe is similar to what we see with gambling.”
Jenkinson said these kinds of features were conscious design choices made to reinforce repetitive play.
“There was reliable evidence that participation in simulated gambling – but especially making some in-game purchases – was associated with experiencing gambling-related problems and being at risk of gambling-related harm… things like impact on relationships, work and study, ” she said.
She said adolescents who played simulated gambling games were significantly more likely to gamble when they were 18 years old.
“We found a strong causal relationship between playing these games at 16 and 17 and gambling when they turn 18,” she said. “It wasn’t just kids playing a video game every day that could be a concern: it was these kinds of games.”
The CEO of the International Social Games Association, the industry’s global representative body, Luc Delany, said that social casino games cannot be considered gambling.
“Social games, including social casino games, do not provide an opportunity to win money or anything of value,” said Delaney. “So it’s clearly not gambling, they don’t carry any analogous risks, and no studies show a causal relationship.
“For a decade, the industry has established best practices, promoted consumer education, and contributed to ongoing research.”
Aristocrat declined to comment and referred questions to the ISGA. While online gambling is banned in Australia, Aristocrat CEO Trevor Croker told investors in Sydney last week that it has made significant progress in developing real money online gambling abroad.
Professor Sally Gainsbury, the director of Sydney University’s Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic, said social casino games are not subject to any transparency requirements as they are not classified as a gambling product.
“We don’t know if the games are more responsive; they don’t have to disclose what they’re doing,” Gainsbury said.
“Where it would be detrimental if there were deceptive tactics and as far as I know there has been no research on that.
“There are a lot of people who play these games and even if they spend money on them, it doesn’t necessarily have to be harmful.
“It’s important not to demonize these people…the expenses themselves are not proof of harm.”
For support visit GambleAware or speak to a counselor 24 hours a day on the GambleAware Helpline on 1800 858 858.
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