The overlap of gaming and gambling activities within online digital technologies is of growing relevance to the study of technological addictions. Social casino games are immensely popular ‘free to play’ games that offer realistic emulation of financial gambling activities. Their structural similarities might suggest that engagement in social casino games may be particularly risky for people with existing gambling problems. Currently it is not known whether social casino games are used problematically by individuals who also experience problematic gambling, the extent of this overlap, the characteristics of those who experience problems with both activities, and the symptoms of problematic social casino game use they experience.
An online survey was administered to Internet users (N = 1554) to assess social casino game use and associated problems. This study examined a subsample of 176 adults who played social casino games and reported self-identified gambling problems.
The results indicated that a greater frequency and diversity of social casino game playing and more frequent and larger expenditure on social casino games was significantly positively associated with symptom severity of problematic social casino game use. Gamblers who were younger, less educated, spoke a non-English language, and with higher psychological distress, were more likely to report greater problems. Playing social casino games to escape or relieve a negative mood was the most commonly reported symptom.
These findings suggest that some problem gamblers may also be at risk of problematic engagement in online gambling activities that lack financial incentives. Gamblers' concurrent engagement in social casino games therefore warrants further consideration in gambling research studies and clinical practice settings.