Candy Crush and the huge amount of free online poker games available to young people has caused a spike in childhood gambling addiction in the United Kingdom, according to a new report found in the Times Educational Supplement.
The report is based on research done by Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University in England. The expert on gambling believes that by allowing children to play online poker for free gets children hooked on the experience and can easily lead to children becoming gambling addicts in the future:
“One of the biggest predictors of whether people become gamblers is the playing of gambling-type games on free-play sites…When you start winning, you start thinking that, if I was playing with real money, I could be doing quite well. Children who play these free games are more likely to gamble and more likely to develop problem gambling behaviors. These are gateway activities that can lead people down the gambling road.”
Griffiths claims that the huge amount of poker games found on social media websites and online poker websites that allow a free trial with no age restrictions has caused more and more children to get hooked into gambling. The professor backs up his claim with a 2011 survey of 2,700 secondary school children which found that 15 percent of those children had played gambling games online the week before the survey.
While free online poker may be a root factor in causing childhood gambling addiction, some may be confused as to how Candy Crush, one of the most popular mobile games available today, also encourages gambling. Griffiths believes that by offering users the chance to buy new levels allows them to be drawn into the game and become obsessed with it.
“It’s a bit like the old drug-dealing analogy of giving a bit for free and hooking them in…Games like Candy Crush have a more-ishness quality, a bit like chocolate. You say you’ll just have one chunk and you end up having the whole lot. So you say, ‘I’ll just play for 15 minutes’, and you end up still there four or five hours later.”
Griffiths also cites games allowing users to spend money on avatar items as a source of childhood gambling addiction, and if developers started offering users the chance to win back their money they would trap even more young people. The professor believes that teachers as well as parents should teach children the differences between virtual and real gambling and the consequences that come with gambling addiction sooner so that children do not grow up with gambling issues.