Is is gambling or a game? Simulated gambling. Interview with AIFS Senior Research Fellow Dr Anna Thomas Australian Gambling Research Centre
What is simulated gambling?
Simulated gambling is games that look and
feel just like gambling,
but there isn’t the ability to bet, win or lose money.
What are the concerns with simulated gambling?
There are some key concerns around simulated gambling or gambling-like games.
These games can make people feel that gambling really is just like a normal game
and really doesn’t involve any kind of harm,
where we know that gambling can actually result in quite severe harms.
In addition, these types of games actually
allow people to experience the rewards of
winning without feeling the pains of losses,
and that can set up an illusion for people
that they may actually have more chance of winning
and that their skills from games can
translate over to gambling. And when you are
thinking about games like slot machine, gambling, there is no skill-base in these games.
So it can really set up a belief in people that they’re going to be more successful with
these games, with gambling, when they transfer
over from games than they will in fact be.
What does the research tell us about simulated gambling?
The research in terms of simulated gambling,
or gambling-like games, is really very much
in its infancy, but what we do know already
is that around 20% of people who play these
types of games will actually transfer over
to gambling, so will move from the games over
to gambling. And some of the reason they’ll
do this is to win money, and because they
feel that they’ve been able to practice
with the games and now are ready to try out
gambling. And one of the other things we know
about, from the research, is that people who
transfer over from the games to gambling are
more likely to have gambling problems.
We don’t know as yet whether that means that
the games are leading people to gambling and
possibly into gambling problems or whether
it’s just that people who are heavily into
gambling and may have gambling problems also
like these type of games.
What are the research gaps?
There’s lots of things we are still yet
to know about gambling-like games or simulated
gambling. We really don’t know that much,
as yet, about how it might normalise gambling
for people who are playing those games, when
it might lead to particularly risky play and
risky gambling. And we still don’t know
a lot about the pathways between the games
and gambling. We know that people, some people
move from the games over to gambling and for
some other people, they move from gambling
back into games. So there may actually be
some protective features around some of these
gambling-like games, but we really don’t
know that much about those sort of really,
why people might play those games and when
it becomes risky for them.
Why do people play these games?
There’s lots of reasons people play simulated
gambling games or gambling-like games. A lot
of the motivations are actually quite similar
to the motivations for gambling. So people
do it as a form of entertainment, because
they think it’s fun, it’s exciting, it
can be a challenge for them. There’s also
for some people they’ll find it relieves
boredom or actually allows them to escape
from thinking about some of their problems.
These last two are some of the motivations
that we know are associated with risky gambling
and so potentially could be a problem if people
shift from games over to gambling.
What groups are at risk of harm?
We really don’t know much about who is most
at risk from playing these types of games.
We know that there is a proportion of people
who move from the games over to gambling and
we know that people who are experiencing problems
with their gambling are more likely to be
playing these games. But we don’t as yet
know whether one is causing the other and
we really don’t know much at all about who
might be most at risk and why they might be
most at risk, in terms of potential gambling
issues from playing these games.
Are there regulations in place for simulated gambling games?
There is very little regulation that is actually
occurring around gambling like games. And
what does exist is really quite inconsistent
and in many ways inadequate. There is very
little information to inform parents or players
of games as to the potential risks involved
in these games or the likelihood if they move
across from games to gambling. And the regulations
that are in place are inconsistent across
the different platforms and different types
of games that are being played.
Read the full paper Is it gambling or a game? Simulated gambling games. https://aifs.gov.au/agrc/publications/is-it-gambling-or-game