Toronto, Oct 25 Free online casino games may be an alternative to paid gambling, but it is linked to a higher risk of monetary gambling as well as problems related to it including abuse issues, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), stress, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, warns a new research.
The study showed that adolescents who participated in free online games called social casino games, were significantly more likely to participate in monetary gambling, either online or land-based forms.
These social casino games may also have higher odds of winning than monetary gambling, giving young people the false impression that they are luckier or better at gambling.
"Adolescents' participation in seemingly risk-free social casino games is a concern because we know that early exposure to gambling activities is a risk factor for developing gambling problems in the future," said Tara Elton-Marshall, lead Researcher at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.
While bricks-and-mortar casinos and legal gambling websites are off-limits to adolescents, free online games are open to anyone.
These social casino games let people try their hand at casino table games, slots, poker or bingo without betting real money. Like monetary gambling, people place bets in hopes of winning rewards, in this case, points or prizes within the game only.
Because these games do not involve betting or winning money, they are not legally classified as gambling and remain unregulated, the researchers rued, in the paper published in the journal BMC Public Health.
"While it is 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," Marshall said.
For the study, the team examined 10,035 aged 13 to 19 who were asked about three game types -- Internet poker, Internet slots and social casino games on Facebook.