Do Children’s Apps Simulate Sports and Casino Betting?

A growing number of studies have shown that some children’s apps and games are intentionally designed to simulate gambling. But what risks could this pose to the child in your life, and are there specific apps adults should be on the lookout for? 

Experts say that as more apps and games promote “social gambling” – or betting with fake money – the more likely it is for children to participate in real-life gambling later in life, or even when they’re still underage. 

According to an analysis by David Zendle, an expert on the effects of video games and gambling at the University of York, 1,107 “social casino” games on the Android app store had an age rating of 12+ or lower. As a result, children can quickly start engaging in gambling behaviors at a young age. 

There are also children’s apps and games that share no similarities to a casino or gambling game on the surface but have hidden effects that trigger the same chemicals in the brain. These can include loot boxes, skins, “spin to win” prizes, and in-app purchasing. Even games that initially appear free have paid options, or “freemiums,” to appear to make your gameplay better or refill the user’s in-game lives. 

“There’s a massive exposure effect,” Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told Axios. “There’s a habituation and grooming effect.” 

Parents or guardians can find an exhaustive watchlist of 75+ apps and games that simulate gambling from the Australian Council on Children and the Media. 

In addition, it can be helpful to know the warning signs of a child who might be dependent on gaming. Here are a few symptoms, according mayoclinichealthsystem.org.

  • Being unusually preoccupied with the game or computer when they are away from it
  • Downplaying the amount of time they spend in front of the TV or computer
  • Losing complete track of time when playing and finding that several hours have passed

Change the Game Ohio offers a wide range of tools and resources, including time management tips for children and discussion guides that can equip parents, caregivers, and educators on how to talk to a child about responsible gaming and the potential risks of youth gambling. To access these resources and more, visit ChangeTheGameOhio.org.


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