When social casino games were first introduced, they were criticised for potentially tempting problem gamblers and underage players. Now, a new study finds that they may actually be productive for problem gamblers in helping them kick their addictions. If you are unfamiliar with social casino games, they are free-play titles which look exactly like roulette, pokies and other casino table games.

They encourage players to interact with one another through social features, and they do not pay out real cash winnings. In most games players start with a balance of play chips. As they play the games, they receive more play chips. If they run out, they can wait a few hours for more chips or they can purchase more for a relatively low cost.

Research by Sally Gainsbury has found some relation between real-money gambling and social gambling – aside from the look of the games. 13% of individuals who play real-money casino games also play social casino games. They tend to be younger players who are more interested in gambling at real-money online casinos.

Many participants in the study found that social games presented a way to enjoy gambling without risking any money. Others stated that the games presented a useful platform to practice gambling and get to know casino games before making real-money wagers to help lower their risk. One of the most important findings was that some participants used social gambling as a form of harm minimisation.

One participant said that it was a ‘way to control my urge to gamble real money’. So, social gambling serve a useful purpose in driving down problem gambling rates.

While, for some players, social casino games can be a constant reminder of gambling, they can be helpful. Some Australian politicians like Nick Xenophon want to ban these games, but they can be used in productive ways.