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Findings from the study revealed that, across all types of SCGs, a larger proportion of SCG players than non-players were classified as exhibiting signs of problem gambling. In contrast, adolescents who did not report playing SCGs in the past three months were predominantly classified as not being problem gamblers. These results are supportive of existing studies of adults and adolescents, in which social casino gaming has exhibited associations with problem gambling tendencies [2, 14, 27]. While the present results stem from a cross-sectional design, which precludes the identification of causal effects, it may be the case that individuals, and particularly adolescents, increase their likelihood of experiencing symptoms pertinent to problem gambling as a result of SCG play. In support, studies have found that adolescents develop inaccurat HappyLuke e attitudes regarding monetary gambling through simulated gambling experiences [11]. Specifically, because SCGs aim to maximize player enjoyment in an effort to increase play time and frequency, these games are typically characterized by inflated odds of success alongside augmented payout rates—a system known as dynamic game balancing [82]. Dynamic game balancing in SCGs, therefore, can create the illusion that one is more skilled or perhaps luckier in a gambling game than is actually the case [24]. These flawed beliefs, in turn, prompt players to persist gambling in the face of financial loss when they transition into monetary gambling activities, yielding problematic gambling habits [20, 24, 83]. When these misleading experiences occur early in one’s life, they can be particularly predictive of later pathological gambling [23]. Consequently, the playing of SCGs may be a considerable risk factor for future problem gambling among adolescents.

Factors associated with social casino gaming among adolescents

With that said, it may also be the case that monetary gamblers who exhibit problem gambling tendencies more pervasively engage in social casino gaming [23]. This expansion from monetary gaming into SCGs may be seen as a way to diversify one’s gambling activities, or it may be considered an avenue through which gamblers seek to mitigate their gambling habits by participating in games that simulate gambling activities without carrying the same financial risk [2, 76].

Across all SCGs assessed, the highest proportion of SCG players exhibiting high-severity gambling tendencies were players of simulated slots. This observation is in line with previous studies of monetary gambling, where it has been reported that slot-machine gambling is significantly related to problem gambling among adolescents and adults [84, 85], and tends to be the preferred form of monetary gambling among problem gamblers [86, 87]. This link between slot-machine gambling and problem gambling has been attributed to the structural characteristics of slot-machine games, which are visually stimulating, offer a highly variable reward schedule, and provide instant feedback [88, 89]. Such structural characteristics have been shown to promote frequent and continuous gambling [89]. In the context of SCG play, it is possible that individuals drawn to the SCG of slots also have a preference for engaging in more highly addictive gambling games, such as slot-machine gambling, and may therefore be more likely to exhibit symptoms of gambling problems.

Overall, the present study identified six factors associated with social casino gaming among adolescents: gender, weekly spending money, smoking status, having friends who gamble, having parents who gamble, and screen time. Although considerable consistency was noted in the factors related to participation in the SCG of slots and SCGs on Facebook, SCG poker players tended to exhibit unique defining characteristics.

 

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