Gambling-like apps: not suitable for children

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation-funded CQUniversity research led by Professor Matthew Rockloff suggests there may be a role for legislative intervention to play in preventing harm from electronic gaming machine/pokies-themed apps.

Speaking at the Foundation’s Gambling Harm Conference 2018: Taking action for change, the Foundation’s CEO, Louise Glanville, referred to the new research, which shows a link between pokies-themed apps, real money gambling and gambling-related harm.

The findings of the peer reviewed research indicates there may be a need for these apps, which simulate real gambling and are readily available to children as free-to-play mobile apps, to be regulated through national legislation.

“The research suggests a correlation between non-monetary gambling-themed games played by children and risky real money gambling behaviours that lead to harm,” Ms Glanville said.

“Further, the researchers have presented evidence that playing simulated gambling games contributes to high-risk real money gambling, supporting their argument that promotion of these gaming apps to children should be banned.”

The research comprised quantitative and qualitative components involving up to 736 18–29 year olds, many of whom noted that they had been introduced to gambling-themed apps as children. Slightly more than half of the research participants were male.

Key findings of the research, released to coincide with the three-day Gambling Harm Conference in Geelong, include:

• gambling-themed app usage is associated with increased real money gambling during pre-adult years
• spending more time playing gambling-themed apps predicts more time spent on real money gambling in the same and subsequent week
• people who play these apps largely consider them to be risk-free
• people considered to be at risk of gambling harm play these games more regularly.

The researchers concluded that gambling-themed games are normalising gambling among children and adolescents, and motivating real money gambling during adolescence.

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