The increasing convergence of the gambling and gaming industries has raised some concerns about whether social casino games might pose risks to certain groups in the community (Derevensky and Gainsbury, 2015, Gainsbury et al., 2014a, King et al., 2010a). One of the theorised consequences of gambling-themed games is the normalisation of gambling behaviours (Department of BroadbandCommunications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), 2013, Gainsbury et al., 2014a, Gambling Commission, 2015, Griffiths, 2010, King and Delfabbro, 2016, King et al., 2014, Parke et al.,). If people play social casino games they may be more likely to view gambling as an acceptable everyday activity and develop favourable attitudes to gambling, transferred from their positive experiences with the games. One hypothesis is that social casino games may represent a gateway product that could precede gambling. At present, however, evidence in support of migration from social casino games to gambling remains very limited. The notion of migration is complex and could involve transfers from social casino gaming to gambling activities while still remaining with the same operator, or it could refer to transfers to other available gambling activities. This may include users who have not previously gambled, as well as existing gamblers for whom the games triggered engagement in discrete or ongoing gambling sessions. In this way, the term migration connotes the possibility that users may engage in social casino games, while also expanding their online activities to include gambling.
Apart from their shared commercial connections, another reason why social casino game users may migrate to gambling is that the activities have many characteristics in common, particularly in relation to structural design (Bramley and Gainsbury, 2015, Groves et al., 2014, Karlsen, 2011, King et al., 2010b). However, unlike gambling products, social casino games may not involve randomly determined outcomes and there is no lsm99 transparency about how outcomes are determined. Conceivably, it is possible for social casino games to use algorithms that produce different outcomes in response to user behaviours to encourage continued play and in-game purchases (Heatz, 2015). Without the same regulatory oversight of game mechanics as in gambling, it is possible that social casino games may encourage misplaced confidence in users that they will be successful at gambling if they perceive the two experiences as highly similar (Bednarz et al., 2013, Frahn et al., 2014, Sevigny et al., 2005). Engaging in SNG may also encourage financial risk-taking, based on research that shows that online environments produce greater disinhibition and risk-taking and the establishment of online social interactions that might encourage financial risk-taking to appear courageous and skilful compared to other users (Chan and Saqib, 2015, Wilcox and Stephen, 2013).
It is possible that individuals who play social casino games are already interested in gambling. Given a demonstrated interest in gambling themes, social casino game users may be targeted with advertisements and promotional offers from gambling sites or directly encouraged to migrate to a gambling site based on their use of social casino games. These issues were examined in a qualitative study with social casino gamers. Some participants reported that playing social casino games may lead to gambling because the similarity between the two activities may encourage user familiarity and transition in the hope of winning prizes of value (Gainsbury, Hing, Delfabbro, Dewar, & King, 2015). Other participants reported clearly understanding the differences between social casino games and gambling, and that if they were going to play games for money, they may as well gamble. For some users with gambling problems, social casino games acted as a trigger and exacerbated gambling, and at least one participant attributed their gambling and associated problems to earlier social casino gaming experiences. Thus, a variety of effects may occur but limited research has quantified them or determined any differential effects on sub-populations.