Social Casinos: Free Fun or a Stepping Stone to Real Money Games?

Social Casinos. A gambling purest will probably tell you they're useless. But in recent years, these social casinos have exploded onto the scene. You've most likely seen them advertised, showing off their endorsements with celebs and athletes. These platforms off players the thrill of gambling without the risk of actually losing money. They offer the same games that most online casinos do and play up the fact they offer a "community" for players. Proponents say these social casinos are harmless and bring with them a sense of community. Opponents claim they risk normalizing gambling to a younger crowd who can't afford to play with real money. So which is it? Harmless fun or gateway to real money gambling?

The Case For Social Casinos:

The biggest selling point of social casinos have is that they offer players a chance to play their favorite slots, table games and specialty games with absolutely no financial risk. It's all free. Why would anyone do this? Well, social casinos claim that allowing players to play for free allows them to simply enjoy the experience of gambling without taking the risk. It's all about the fun of it. I mean, gambling IS entertainment, so maybe they're on to something.

Players are typically given a set amount of "cash" and are free to play any games they like. This gives players who typically would not bet high amounts the chance to see what it feels like to pull off some $1,000 spins on a slot or drop a $500 hand on blackjack. To many, just that thrill is enough to sustain them.

But it's not all without a goal. More and more social casinos are incorporating tournaments, challenges and head-to-head duels. This features reward players with the social casino's virtual currency, which is typically used to upgrade a player's avatar, profile, etc. These features breed a sense of competition as players can play against friends, family and other gamblers.

It's this community that social casinos really hang their hat. They're selling players a sense of belonging. Maybe players don't have the funds to gamble with real money. No problem with social casinos. You can have the thrill of big wins with a community of players who simply like gambling for the pure entertainment of it.

You have to admit it does sound appealing. This author loves sitting down and spinning some slots. If I could do that with some friends and not worry about running into a cold streak that's going to ruin my balance then why not give it a go?

The Case Against Social Casinos:

We've touched on the good, now let's take a look at the not so good. Sure, social casinos offer free entertainment, but it's their resemblance to real money gambling that raises some real concerns. Players are playing games that are available to play with real money. Literally every aspect is the same except for the value of the coins they're playing with.

What if a player hits a wild streak of wins when playing the free version of a slot. They think, 'if I did that with real money I'd be rich!" So they try. They deposit funds they can't afford to lose thinking they're going to repeat the success they had in the free version. Only they don't. They lose quickly. So they put in more money. They lose again. And down the drain they go. It's a slippery slope.

Another way to look at this is the continuous exposure to casino games in a risk-free environment can desensitize players to the very real world dangers that come with gambling. If a player keeps losing during a free game, they know no real harm is being done to them. Over time that can be harmful. Because once they deposit REAL money, they may not realize the very real damage they're doing with continual losses. In other words, betting becomes so normal that players won't know the difference between free and real.

And even though social casinos allow players to play their favorite games without risk of losing money, they do try and extract real money from their users. Those "coins" or "rewards" players claim for winning a tournament can be used to make in-app purchases. Nothing in this world is truly free. And social casinos are no exception.

Finally, the community social casinos are built on can actually lead to harmful side effects. Sharing huge wins with the community of players can bring with it a type of validation. It's here that other players may encourage you to try your luck with real money. Heck, you did it here, why not for real! Everyone wants to be seen as good or successful or rich. A community of gamblers might not be the best of places for harmless fun.

Conclusion:

It's true that social casinos can be a fun place to interact with fellow gamblers, try new games and have an enjoyable night. It's also true that they can lead some young users down a path of no return. If you ask this author, implementing a stricter age verification process is a must. Right now, it's far too easy for young players to gain access to social casinos. Another move could be stricter moderation on the chats between players.

It's easy to see the allure of social casinos. They're fun. Entertaining. They have flashy celeb endorsements. But for as fun as they are, they are equalling worrisome. By implementing some simple regulations, it's the belief of this author that social casinos can be a true source of harmless entertainment rather than the gateway to real money gambling.