I saw a stat (pulled from a decade ago) that said more than 1.6 billion people gamble each year. Casino gaming.
Knowing that, would you be surprised to hear that even more people play social casino games? One statistic said that more than 11 million users visit the top social casino games on Facebook daily.
That comes out to more than 4 billion users per year. About 2.5x the number of people who gamble for real money.
Now, that is only the user-base and not money spent or earned. Social games are nowhere near traditional gambling in that sense, where traditional gambling generates $100+ billion each year.
But social gambling is still brand new, and it’s still growing. It’s currently a $3.4 billion niche market with experts estimating it’ll reach $4.4 billion by 2017. It makes up 4% of the overall $91 billion social gaming market – which is comparable to traditional gambling.
The point is this: social casino gaming is a big deal.
So big, in fact, that many traditional poker and casino companies are buying their way into this space. We have a few examples later on, but the most current example is the World Poker Tour. On August 31st, 2016, they announced the launch of their social casino platform, PlayWPT, which includes both poker and slot games.
Anyway, chances are you’re already familiar with social games. Maybe you already have a favorite social slots or blackjack game you play. If not, then we’ll bet you’ve at least seen these games on your Facebook.
If you do any amount of research on this topic, you’ll quickly find out that everyone has their own definition of what social gaming or social gambling is.
It’s even more confusing when you talk about gambling because social gambling can also mean poker and casino games you play in a home with other people.
But, for our purpose here, social gambling means playing casino games on social networks like Facebook or MySpace.
These games are usually played in your browser or from a mobile app on your tablet or phone.
First timer? Getting started is simple. Here’s the process I went through to launch Zynga Poker on Facebook:
This in turn can create a viral effect that can quickly build a self-sustaining, perpetuating user-base for the game. Assuming the game’s any good, of course.
This is a bit different from traditional gambling in that they need to rely more on advertising and affiliates to grow. Part of this is probably due to the stigma that follows traditional gambling, whereas social gambling isn’t scrutinized as much.
On a smaller level, social gaming companies use different strategies to get you to share and come back to play their games. In many ways they mirror traditional video games, even though social games are less challenging and have shorter game play.
Casino gaming jobs
For example, here are two common strategies developers use:
You can play slots and more slots. You can play from your browser or on your tablet or phone using their app. When you sign up they’ll give you free coins to play with. They have more than 5 million users and developed by Playtika (http://www.playtika.com/), who happens to be owned by Caesar Interactive Entertainment.
Also developed by Playtika. Play slots and bingo with unique features such as power ups, collection items and achievements. They have more than 5 million followers on Facebook.
They’ve developed many games, but their specific casino games include Zynga Poker, Zynga Poker Classic, Hit It Rich! Slots and Wizard of Oz slots. Their Texas HoldEm Poker app has 66,779,000+ likes and more than 5 million players. You can see their casino games here.
This is from IGT. They offer more than 70 different slots, as well as video poker, blackjack, roulette and more. One of the benefits to playing here is you get to play slots like Wheel of Fortune, Double Diamond, DaVinci Diamonds, The Ellen DeGeneres Show slots – and many others exclusively from IGT. They have more than 7.6 million Facebook followers and 1 million players.
They offer a large variety of games, too. You can play craps, slots, blackjack and roulette. They offer 100,000 free bonus chips, free spins, bonus games, jackpots and free daily games. They have more than 759,000 followers and 100,000 users.
Play more than 170 slot machines. They have more than 1 million followers and 13 million users.
These are the most common monetization methods. However, sometimes a developer will try a unique way to make money.
But no more than 14 months later they decided to close both real money options because they struggled to convert free money players into real money players. This is a challenge even online casinos and poker rooms struggle with today.
Are There Any Downsides or Risks to Social Gambling?
Are there any actual consequences to social gambling?
We found an interesting interview at where game developer Diana Gruber talked briefly about social gambling.
One of the interesting things she pointed out is that social gaming is more like shareware than traditional gambling. Here’s why that’s interesting (emphasis ours):
It might lead the person to signing up to a real money casino with unrealistic expectations. Or, maybe manipulate them into buying in-game purchases to try to win more often.
Can you see how this could be dangerous?
Dr. Mark Griffiths, a Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, agrees (emphasis ours):
Dr. Griffiths says that the behavioural and social conditioning of social slots and gaming is no different to real-money gambling, apart from the fact you’re not “risking” real money:
But here’s where we think “it depends.”
We feel like there’s got to be some personal accountability. That the person playing should have educated themselves on how gambling works. And, at the very least that the casino has an advantage on nearly every bet made under their roof.
That’s what we mean by “it depends.” At some point you have to place the responsibility onto the player.
But that’s in a perfect world, not the one we live in. And we have to create laws, rules and regulations that protect the lowest common denominator – the gullible people who fall too easily for pipe dreams.
Anyway …that’s one potential danger.
Another is the addictive nature of these games. They’re still casino games, which encourage you to play more through bells, whistles and small wins.
Then there’s the achievement aspect of these games. Where you’re encouraged to play as much as you can to achieve as much as you can. This is even more addicting when you’re able to share this to social platforms to brag to your friends – or challenge them to beat your score.
According to Dr. Griffiths this can be bad too. That addictions don’t have to come down to winning or losing money. But that addiction can also come in the form of time spent. The time you lose playing these games can have a negative impact on your life, too.
And then you have the risks associated with freemium games that have in-game purchases. No doubt you’ve heard the stories of kids or teenagers playing freemium games, only to buy in-game options or cheats to advance levels or unlock stuff.
Their parents don’t know any better …until the phone bill comes in the mail, with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in additional charges.
So, those are some of the bigger risks or downsides to social casino games. It’s still gambling, and depending on the game you play, there are still opportunities for you to spend money …even lots of it.
But not everyone agrees social casino gambling is dangerous. According to Christoph Jenke, the COO of social betting game Crowdpark:
Because social gambling games are similar, if not identical to real gambling games – and also have addictive qualities – there have been many debates about whether or not social games need to be regulated.
Casino gaming tables
Probably the biggest reason why they’re legal in the United States is that you can’t get/win money out of the game. That’s the conclusion Venture Beat came to back in 2009.
First, they brought up both the Wire Act and UIGEA. But both of these are vague and don’t cover apps.
Then they talked about each individual state. Each state defines gambling as betting on a game of chance. But then some games are a game of chance in one state, while in others it’s a game of skill.
The one common denominator they found is that gambling involves putting up something of value to get something of value back out. And that’s something that applies to most states, too. So, they took that and applied it to a social casino app.
Here’s their thought process:
So, what happens to your money? Zynga’s chief executive says, nothing – you can’t take money out of the game in any form of value. You don’t even win virtual prizes that are worth money.
And that seems to be the one key difference – the very reason why you can play social casino games legally in the United States. Money can go in, but you receive nothing of tangible value in return.
That said, there are second hand markets for virtual goods such as Zynga chips. These sites are often credit card fraud rings who buy chips and then re-sell them. And the crazy part?
Social gaming companies are responsible for them – what they do and what they sell – whether they own them or not. This is seemingly unlike Japan, where companies apparently are getting away with players exchanging their metal balls for things of value.
Speaking of virtual goods, Venture Beat also considered the virtual gifts you can send to others. The law is even cloudier here. Facebook, at the time, limited you to sending 16 gifts per day, which only cost 5-10 in game chip-dollars (that’s nothing compared to the number of chips you receive when you log in).
In terms of value, the question posed was whether you were getting any value outside of the thought of posting a gift to someone’s wall. Maybe not, but then what happens if/when that gift’s actually worth something? When it has verifiable retail value – what do you do then?
That’s what lawmakers will have to figure out if they want to regulate the market – if they even see a need to. Who knows? Like traditional gambling there are people on both sides of the debate.
For now, it seems to be fine so long as you’re not receiving anything of value.