Slot Machine Game Apps

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Some of the most downloaded and top-grossing video games in leading app stores use casino motifs for their designs, raising questions about the potential dangers of gambling.

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Ardi Ragian is a freelance journalist focusing on under-reported community issues. He was a former city desk editor at the Hill Press newspaper at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a former radio reporter for the environmental news show on the university’s KZSC station.

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Matthew Renda is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz, California He is interested in the interaction between technology and social issues, and he loves to read, bike, surf, and rock climb. The most unfortunate part of his life is being a fan of Cleveland sports teams

Draw their look and feel from many popular gaming apps – such as GSN Casino – slot machines, blackjack tables and more. Game Show Network

Many worries about the future weigh on Brett as he works through a gambling addiction program

The 21-year-old’s biggest concern after being released from a three-month program in California: Encountering people, places and things that might encourage gambling. But that doesn’t compare to the biggest threat he faces: his smartphone, and the many casino-style games available with a quick tap in an app store.

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“I don’t even have to go to the casino,” said the former businessman, who asked to remain anonymous because of the stigma attached to his struggles. “Just whip out your phone and you’re there.”

Brett’s gambling problem began a few years ago with bets on National Basketball Association games, and later wagers on other professional sports. It wasn’t long before his practice expanded to social casino gaming Played on mobile devices or PCs, such games also simulate slot machines and card games in casinos through Facebook’s website. The main difference is that players cannot win real cash They bet with in-game money and if they run out, they can spend real-world dollars to win more.

“There are a lot of these games,” Brett said “Many of them are also the most popular games,” he said.

He started playing Zynga Poker, a slot machine game, last year But he wanted the excitement that came with real money betting After some time, he was betting in a brick-and-mortar casino, to his financial loss When he lost more than $5,000 through a combination of card games and sports betting, he was forced to ask his parents for money to pay off the debt. That’s when he and his parents decided he needed to enter a recovery program

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These games developed for mobile devices boosted Brett’s gambling Part of how he got hooked was the “freemium” nature of social casino titles — a tactic that has become a lucrative new way of doing business within the video game industry. The lure is simple: lure players in with free games and once they’re engaged, entice them to pay extra, like virtual money, gifts and more turns.

“These games are normalizing gambling,” said Sally Gainsbury, a researcher at the Center for Gambling Education and Research at South Cross University in Australia. “It is seen as an acceptable everyday activity, helping people develop a positive attitude towards gambling, and this may divert young people from wanting to spend money on gambling,” he said.

And that may be the biggest problem, said John Kind, a gambling critic and professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “When you combine electronic gaming with gambling and sports that people think are bulletproof, you have a trifecta of social and economic problems waiting to happen.”

Spokespeople for Zynga declined to comment, while Kaiser Interactive Entertainment and Big Fish Games did not respond to requests for comment.

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There are many more brats out there Video games are more popular today than ever before, and their influence continues to grow For casino game producers, this translates into three and a half times more monthly viewers than the crowd that visited Las Vegas last month.

According to Superdata Research, the global audience for casino apps on smartphones reached an average of 145 million active users between July 2015 and June 2015 (excluding Asia, which is unrecorded and accounts for a quarter of the global market). Gambling researcher Gainsbury estimates that these games will attract 269 million people worldwide by 2016.

That audience is also opening their wallets for gaming Last July, social casino games regularly made up a quarter of the top 20 highest-grossing apps on the Google Play Store, according to market analytics company App Annie. The Apple App Store showed similar statistics for the month, with social casino apps taking three spots in the top 20 in a row. Both Slotomania: Free Casino Slots and Big Fish Casino: Free Slots consistently ranked in the top 10 on both stores.

Although the games are free-to-play, revenue from in-game additional purchases runs into the millions for the largest publishers Zynga’s total adjusted sales from social casino games in the first quarter of 2015 were estimated at $80.1 million, and Caesars Interactive, whose major social casino titles include Slotomania and Caesars Casino, reported total revenue of $167.6 million.

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The social casino app for smartphones has three and a half times more monthly visitors than the crowd that visited Las Vegas last month.

Sales continue to grow: The global social casino gaming market reached $809.6 million in the first quarter of 2015, up 7 percent from the same period a year ago. Revenue from mobile accounted for 61 percent of the total market in the quarter, compared to 50 percent a year ago.

The global market for social casino games is expected to bring in $3.2 billion by the end of 2015, with North America accounting for nearly half the market, according to SuperData.

Games are not the only thing that attracts customers The developers have even roped in high-profile celebrities to endorse them

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Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal teamed up with Play Studios in March to lend his likeness to two social casino games that run on the company’s MyVegas app: Caddy Shack, a slot machine game, and a blackjack title. “Once players see the game with all the lights, sounds and features, I think it’s going to be there,” O’Neill said.

He should know: O’Neal said he often plays games during downtime between watching and analyzing playoff basketball games. He even recommended MyVegas to his five children, ages 9 to 19 Owen said he likes games because they help him learn math skills

For Liz Woolley, the games highlight an emerging and little-known social issue related to video game addiction. Woolley founded the online Gamers Anonymous after his 21-year-old son committed suicide in 2001, two years after he spent two years playing the Internet fantasy game EverQuest.

He said that before this he was normal. “He had ambitions like no other guy. But when he got into the game, he became a different person.”

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Woolley said her son was addicted and it made her depressed. “Sports are the drug of choice for some people,” Woolley said. They use it to escape reality and parents use these games as children

Developers of social casino games and industry advocates say these apps are not as dangerous as critics charge. They say that stories of loss come from abuse

Game makers have dealt with celebrities and popular brands to help raise their profile. Game Show Network

“It’s not the game itself,” said Andrew Pedersen, senior vice president and general manager of social casino for the cable channel Game Show Network. “It’s about individuals who have that kind of obsessive side to their personality.”

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Tony Lawrence, a 58-year-old healthy gambler at the Aboriginal Gambling Support Service in Adelaide, Australia, said he used social casino games as a learning experience for himself and clients.

It gives them a bit of an adrenaline rush and helps them control their addiction and change their behavior, says Lawrence, who himself spends two hours a day at Slotomania.

However, the freemium model presents a challenge Lawrence trains his clients to choose games where there aren’t constant pop-ups for purchasable extras, which they say can trigger addiction.

“I’m a gambler and if I start buying credit online, it will be the end of me and I’ll struggle from there,” Lawrence said.

In Australia, Slot Machines Are Everywhere. So Is Gambling Addiction.

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