Free-Play Gambling Spurs Higher Bets in Real Money Games [Research]

Free-play online gambling may not be free after all. Gamblers who played free poker bet “significantly” more when they played subsequent rounds with real money, according to a recent study. The research, from the University of Adelaide in Australia, examined behavior in three groups of young people ages 18-24:

  • One group that received a high return on free-play games
  • One group that received a high return on free-play games and pop-up messages encouraging them to continue to play
  • One control group

The study found that the group with high returns and the group receiving both high returns and encouragement bet much more than the control group when they moved on to real-play mode.

In an article about the research, study author Tahnee Frahn notes the findings are especially concerning given that previous research has demonstrated that some gambling sites offer higher payout rates in free-play mode (also called demo or practice mode) than in games played for actual money. (For example, in another study researchers analyzed payout rates for 117 Internet casinos and discovered that 39% provided higher payout rates on free-play or demo mode than in real-play mode.)

Frahn also says that demo modes can create the illusion that practice will help the gambler get better at the game. However, in reality the gambler is playing a game of chance, in which no amount of practice can create a better outcome.

Warning Signs of Online Gambling Addiction

  • Decrease in performance at school or work
  • Gambling online during work or class
  • Unable or unwilling to account for time spent gambling online
  • Gambling online even when he or she doesn’t have money
  • Chasing losses to win back money
  • Borrowing money from family, friends, or colleagues to play
  • Making unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling on his or her own
  • Committing  illegal acts, like theft, fraud, or forgery, to get money
  • Increasingly anxious, stressed, or depressed

Help for Compulsive Internet Gambling

If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, help is available in Lancaster and Lebanon. Compass Mark provides confidential referrals and guidance for people and families affected by this addiction. Contact our team at (717) 299-2831 or use the online help form. You can also learn more by reading:

Online Gambling a Bad Bet, Experts Say

Tips for Parents of Teen Online Gamblers

Gambling for Kids? There May Be an App for That

How to Block Online Gambling Sites from a Computer

Resources for Educators, Counselors, and Mental Health Professionals

Help your students, clients, and patients by learning more about online gambling addiction. Call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 for information about problem gambling resources, training sessions, or the We Know BETter gambling awareness program for kids in grades 4-8.

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