Social casino games are sets that resemble casino games in their appearance, sounds, gameplay, and payouts. They are the product of gambling and social media converging, which was kicked off by the software developer High 5 Games. However, they act more like demo games since they do not offer real money wins. Players are provided with fun credits to use when they join a social casino, and any collected wins can only be reused as stakes without the option for withdrawal.
Free-to-play slots and social games have ballooned into a new phenomenon that simulates online gambling. It is estimated that around 173 million people engage in the games monthly, and this figure is growing at a 24% rate every year. While these games are hugely popular, they raise concerns about how innocent they are. Recent studies are digging into their impact on gambling addiction, and so far, there seems to be an overlap between the games and pathological gamblers. In most cases, social casino games appear to harm more than help problem gamblers.
Understanding Problem Gambling
With gambling addiction rates rising faster than ever in history, numerous studies seek to understand the habit more than ever. To know how social games impact problem gamblers, it is essential to break down what it is in the first place. Compulsive gambling is an uncontrollable need to gamble that is often compared to drug dependency. Pathological gamblers do not see the activity as an enjoyable diversion. Instead, it is a raging compulsion that seeks satisfaction in playing casino games, even with the knowledge that they are designed to lose more than win.
Not So “Free-To-Play”
On the surface, social casino games seem like the ideal solution to problem gambling. However, once you understand their impacts on one’s time and wallets, it is easy to change your mind. A fair share of these sets is marketed as free, meaning that they are free to download and install. Also, once players register accounts, they are awarded fun credits that they can use for gameplay. However, most of them support the purchase of coins using real money once the casino-gifted ones run out. In most cases, popular social gaming apps sell these coins in packages valued between $39.99 and $499.99. Even when these credits are bought for real money, the payouts they generate cannot be cashed out. It is estimated that players spent and gambled away about $6 billion worth of free chips in 2020 alone.
With social casino games entertaining real money use, pathological gamblers are likely to make their problem worse. Also, these sets have the potential to send recreational players down the slippery slope of gambling addiction.
Social games also take up a lot of time, which is a factor that most compulsive gamblers have trouble controlling. Even when real money is not being used, they take away valuable time that can be used to explore other ventures like new hobbies, jobs, and interactions with loved ones.
What Can Actually Help
Social casino games act more like a band-aid to a bullet wound: while it might delay the progression of the habit, it does not help solve the problem. Here are pointers that come in handy when dealing with gambling addiction:
- Admit the problem’s existence
It is impossible to get over a problem whose existence you do not acknowledge. Avoid justifying the habit through glorification, minimization, misinformation, or comparison. Admit that you have a gambling addiction despite the discomfort that comes with the admission. Also, take time to understand what comes with the disorder and what it means to lack control over it. Look back at old habits like repeated failed attempts to quit, lying to loved ones about how much you gamble, hiding the practice, and needing financial support due to gambling away all of your money. That way, you will understand how deep you are in the rabbit hole.
- Cut all gambling ties
Once you have established your goal to quit gambling, get ready for the change that comes with it. Stating your need to drop the habit but continuing with everyday motions, as usual, will likely lead to a relapse. Alter your routine to suit your goal, like getting rid of triggers likely to send you down that path again. Delete all casino accounts and uninstall gambling apps from all your gadgets. Also, drop any company that encourages indulging in the habit.
- Find new hobbies
Gambling addiction might have caused you to lose interest in activities that you found joy in. Rekindle such habits to keep your mind stimulated and excited without depending on casino games. You can also explore new hobbies like swimming, dancing, and drawing to challenge you in ways you haven’t been before.
- Plan ahead
Since your brain is used to being awash in dopamine due to constant gambling, sobriety is bound to get boring fast, which is likely to fuel a relapse. Staying inactive for extended periods is setting yourself up for failure. Ensure that you plan your days ahead of time to remain active and keep your mind off gambling.
- Think of the repercussions
Whenever you want to slip back to your old ways, think of the downsides that come with the habit. Gambling addiction has adverse effects on one’s personal and social life. Dwelling on these consequences can result in shame and guilt, but learning from them is likely to keep you on the road to recovery. Rekindling the habit is expected to bring back financial woes and emotional pain, and knowing so should fuel you to avoid it at all costs.
- Procrastinate the activity
During your recovery from gambling addictions, there will be instances where you will crave the activity. When the urge hits, it may seem strong and unending. In these moments, remember that it is only momentary and will pass. Relax, take deep breaths, and distract yourself from other activities.
While social games seem like an ideal escape for problem gamblers, they only delay the situation rather than offer solutions. If gambling addiction seems severe with numerous failed attempts to tackle the issue, it is advisable to seek help from an addiction therapist.