There has been much debate concerning the relationship between social casino, freemium, virtual currency and "real" online gambling games over the last several years. It was thought at one time that social and freemium games that involved playing gambling style games could lead to "conversion" of social casino players to "real" online gambling venues. In fact, this has proven not to be the case. A number of online gambling businesses; most notably, JackPotJoy, 888, Party Gaming/Bwin and PlayTech either created social casino properties or teamed with social casino business to determine if "conversion" up into "real" money online gambling could be achieved by association with social/freemium online game properties. Their experiments showed that there was, in fact, little or no meaningful conversion of social casino players to "real" money gambling play. In addition, an extensive independent research study was conducted by Australian researchers to determine if social/freemium gaming content and game play acted as a proxy and or ramp to "real" gambling. This study was prompted by real concern on the part of Australian politicians that social casino was a threat to the population increasing the risk of "problem" gambling. The research showed that there was no meaningful conversion of social casino players to "real" online gambling.
The results from these experiments and research projects decreased the anxiety and public concern about social casino as a "gambling" threat. Over the years the social casino(Facebook) and mobile/social casino have grown and have developed into an independent industry on its own completely divorced from "real" online gambling. Estimates for "social" casino are in the billions of USD world wide establishing this industry as a real contender; and possibly a competitor to; as opposed to a collaborator with online gambling.
The question now arises is social casino a "proxy" for online gaming? Does social casino keep players away from real gambling venues either physical or virtual? There is certainly plenty of research on the up-sell for social casino into "real" money gambling. However, there is a noticeable absence of any objective research on either the satisficing of the urge to play "real" gambling style games by playing social casino games. The awareness of social casino as an alternative form of gambling became front and center for me when a distraught parent contacted me asking me to intervene on behalf of her teenage son that was racking-up big bills on her credit cards spending money on Facebook casino games. I attempted to contact Facebook to request them to block this individual from further transactions. However, there was no way for a third party, or a parent for that matter, to engage Facebook on this subject. Clearly, this was an example of a person that was having a "gambling" problem.
No mater what the answer is to this final question of social casino as a true "gambling" activity it is well documented that social casinos are doing very well on their own with absolutely no association with or up-sell into "real" money gambling. In fact, the rather arcane notion that virtual goods and the virtual experience has no "value" is clearly absurd and being leveraged to grow very successful social casino businesses. In truth, social casino is an established business sector on its own with its own "problem" gambling challenges. This phenomena deserves serious organized attention similar to how "real" gambling" has created a problem gambling initiative.
Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane, Inc. Kevin, has developed, launched and operated Internet gambling sites in Europe. Kevin and Gameinlane develop "social and real money" casino games for third parties. Kevin has worked for and with US land based casino operators helping them evaluate social casino and iGaming platforms for the purpose of joint ventures and acquisitions. Kevin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.