Simulated gambling games leading to real-life problem gambling, report says

By ABC Social Affairs Correspondent, Norman Hermant

People who play simulated gambling games for free online are more likely to become problem gamblers in real life, according to a report from the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC).

Report’s key findings:
Children are more exposed to gambling than ever before
Online games are blurring the lines between simulated and real gambling
The games create unrealistic expectations about real-life gambling
The report also said the easy access to free gambling games on smart phones and tablets was a major concern.

The AGRC — part of Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies — said more and more people saw gambling as a part of everyday life and they were being exposed to gambling at younger ages than ever before.

“Young people today are growing up around these electronic games,” said Anna Thomas, one of the authors of the Is It Gambling Or A Game? report.

“This is introducing gambling to them at a much younger age than you’d normally expect.”

The report — a compilation of online gambling related research over the last 15 years — said the proliferation of gambling games raised a number of red flags:
Because the online games are so realistic, the lines between simulated gambling and real life “commercial” gambling are increasingly blurred.
Simulated gambling is accessed increasingly through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Players are heavily exposed to commercial gambling site advertising on these sites.
In simulated games, players are protected from the consequences of losing — they can just play again if their luck turns. That creates unrealistic expectations of gambling in real life.
“That’s the danger of these kinds of games,” said Jake Newstadt, who sought help for his gambling problems two years ago.

“They kind of plant potential messages inside of us that we’re not really aware of.”

‘It can become quite addictive’: reformed gambler

Mr Newstadt, 25, started gambling at age 12.

He now works as a project worker helping problem gamblers. He is not surprised by the popularity of simulated gambling games — everything from slot machines, to roulette, to online poker.

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