Posted May 20, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Online games increase childhood gambling addiction


Concerns about the increases in gambling activity continue to gather momentum. Focus is currently shifting from the damage caused by fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and the unchecked spread of betting shops across swathes of the county’s most deprived areas to the risks the young face from continual exposure to gambling.

Initially, our young children are exposed to seemingly innocuous games, often via social media sites, that provide them with different features in exchange for small amounts of money. Games often trumpet free play but then go on to charge children for various non-essential activities. Look out for games where children are provided with the opportunity to customise their avatar for a small fee.

Professor Mark Smith, Director of Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit maintains his research shows how games such as this show children the excitement and reward of gambling, even though they are not spending any money. He paints the analogy that the games are like drug dealers offering free samples as means to get people addicted.

In his study of 2,700 secondary school children, 15 percent had played free gambling sites online during the seven days preceding the study date. Gambling style games give children the chance to experience what winning is like and it then becomes a relatively small jump for them to think “If I was playing with real money I would be doing well.”

Popular games such as Candy Crush Saga also present potential dangers. This type of game successfully presents challenges so that you enjoy the game with rewards in small chunks. It is easy to start playing for short periods and then, because of the built in play-get reward nature of the game, you are still playing hours later. Add on to this, the need to pay, albeit small, amounts of money to progress beyond certain levels and you create yet another situation where online gaming can potentially lead to addictive behaviour.

Professor Griffiths is now, firmly leading a call from academics for schools to address the possible dangers caused by online gaming and addition before we create a generation of young gamblers who face dealing with significant addition problems.