WTech-savvy teens are increasingly turning to social online gambling to entertain themselves by playing popular games like poker, slots and bingo, according to several studies in Canada and Australia. In the Canadian study, over 10,000 students ages 13 to 19 were surveyed in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, and 1 in 8 was found to have engaged in online gambling. In Australia, where betting on sports outcomes and online gambling is a very popular form of entertainment, a study found that 12.2% per cent of 12–17-year-olds had placed a bet or gambled for money or prizes on the internet. The same study found that a shocking one out of five adults with a gambling problem began gambling before the age of 18. The Australian study also claimed that among teens there is a misconception that gambling is a normal part of sport.
An older study from 2010 examined gambling in teenagers from Hong Kong and found that out of the 1004 students surveyed 63.5% gambled offline and 3.5% gambled online with money. Of that 3.5%, the majority of the respondents wagered online at home, and 91.4 % made their first bet before reaching the age of 18. The finding from the older study compared to the statistics from the more recent Canadian and Australian studies indicate that as online gambling became more sophisticated and popular, so did teens’ interest and participation in it. is not the case in all countries. In the US, non-remote casino gaming still dwarfs remote gambling with a total volume of $71.1bn in 2015. This is still common for many other countries with a healthy number of gamblers. However, this is changing quickly and it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before online casinos catch up.
Social Betting Vs Actual Gambling – What’s the Difference?
Unlike their Australian counterparts, the teens in the Canadian study were engaging mostly in free games in which players place bets to win points or prizes. No actual money is used. With online gambling becoming more and more popular, it’s no surprise that impressionable adolescents are emulating their older peers and engaging in gambling-like games online.
Prevented from entering real casinos or betting real money online due to their age, teens can also use technology like VPNs, which mask your country of origin when browsing online or create fake profiles that list their age as 18—the legal age to gamble. It looks like adults aren’t the only ones who are swayed by the ease of online gaming. As teens spend more and more time on their smartphones, they have also discovered how easy and convenient it is to play from their devices at home or on-the-go.
More Likely to be Gamblers Later in Life
The Canadian study by CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), produced some worrying findings including the fact that adolescents who played social casino games online were much more likely to gamble with real money later in life. These findings are seen as a social concern by the CAMH because social casino games appear to be a gateway to actual gambling. Of the teens who both gambled with money and played social casino games, about 37 – 50% were thought to have a low to average or high problem with gambling. Only 10% of teens who gambled with real money (and not in moneyless and social casino games) were considered to have a problem gambling.
According to Dr Elton-Marshall, a social and epidemiological researcher at CAMH and first author of the study, researchers aren’t clear on why there’s such a strong connection between online gambling and high gambling in teens. What they did find though was that teens who were gambling online were more likely to participate in several forms of gambling than teens who only gambled offline.
The same study also found some interesting differences between male and female players. Males were much more likely to play internet poker but only slightly more likely to play slots or social casino games.
Facebook Plays a Part
As teens spend more and more time on their smartphones and computers, they are also looking for new ways to entertain themselves. Facebook is one of the most popular platforms where these social casino games are played, and a quick search on their website reveals hundreds of these games. Perhaps one of the most worrying facts from the study is that because no actual money is being bet, these games are not legally considered to be gambling and remain unregulated by the gaming commissions of the provinces.
One concern is that teenage brains are not yet fully formed and the neurological pathways online gambling creates can be especially influential on future behaviour. The theory is that teenage brains are more likely to be impacted by their environments and are more susceptible to risky and impulsive behaviour. These are exactly the types of customers online casinos desire and try to attract. These games are designed to be enticing and entertaining, and the effect they have on teenage brains is not yet clear. Understanding teenagers’ motives for online gambling may be a parent’s best bet in preventing them from forming damaging gambling habits.