Methods: Cross-sectional, self-report data were collected from 448 social casino game players (18-67 years old, 57.3% male) using an online survey. Given that social casino games combine the features of both gambling and video gaming, we adapted nine items from the DSM-5 Internet gaming disorder criteria and three items from the Problem Gambling Severity Index to assess problematic social casino gaming. The sample was randomly split into two subsamples for measurement validation: Subsample A for exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and subsample B for confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). After validating the psychometrics of the measure, structural equation modeling was conducted to examine the relationship of problem social casino gaming to problem gambling along with mental distress.
Results: More than 20% of participants (21.1%) reported having played social casino games daily with almost 40% having played social casino games frequently either at work (19.1%) or school (during classes specifically) (17.4%). Further, more than 60% of participants (62.4%) having gambled on the Internet over the past year. The EFA demonstrated a unidimensional structure of the measure for problematic social casino gaming, accounting for 64% of the variance. All items loaded highly onto the single factor, ranging from 0.65 to 0.83. The CFA confirmed the construct validity of the measure (χ2(50) = 101.34, p < .001; RMSEA = 0.07; CFI = 0.97; TLI = 0.95). The internal consistency of the measure was high with a Cronbach alpha of 0.95. The structural equation modeling revealed that problematic social casino gaming severity was significantly associated with greater mental distress (β = 0.71, p < .001) and problem gambling severity (β = 0.91, p < .001).
Conclusions and Implications: Similar to other video games, social casino games are a form of interactive, recreational activity. However, as suggested by this study, problematic social casino gaming could be harmful to individuals given its relations to problem gambling and mental distress. This study was the first attempt at developing an assessment tool for professionals and researchers to better differentiate problematic engagement in this emerging technology from healthy play. Implications to research, practice, and policy will be further discussed.