Slightly over 12 per cent of teens surveyed had played social casino games in the past three months. (iStock)

Gambling problems among teens linked to free online games

A new study found adolescents who played free social casino games were significantly more likely to play for money both online and on land, and they were more likely to have gambling problems. The study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that 12 per cent of respondents aged nine to 13 had played social casino games in the past three months.

Free online games open to anyone

Children this young are not allowed into bricks and mortar casinos nor are they allowed to gamble for money on legal websites. However, free online games are open to anyone. These social casino games include casino table games, slots, poker or bingo without wagering real money. Players can win points or prizes within the game only.

Canada – October 9, 2008: Illuminated Montreal Casino and fountains

Games may build excitement, says researcher

“While it’s not clear whether young people begin in social casino games and move to gambling for money, or if adolescents who are gambling for money also seek out these free games, there is evidence that social casino gaming may build excitement for gambling and encourage the transition into monetary gambling,” says Dr. Elton-Marshall, senior author of the study in a news release.

Elton-Marchall said it may be easier to win playing social casino games and that gives young people a false impression about their luck or ability in gambling.

Gambling problems linked to type of play

The study found 37 to 50 per cent of respondents who gambled for money and played social casino games had low to high problem gambling. On the other hand,  only10 per cent of teens who took part in monetary gambling but not social casino games had some degree of problem gambling.

Problem gambling was gauged by how often teens missed extra curricular activities due to gambling.

Information useful for prevention efforts

Researchers say that understanding who is more likely to play social media games may help tailor intervention and awareness programs to help prevent gambling problems. This study by CAMH, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, was published in the journal, BMC Public Health.

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