Abstract: Murky Nexus of Gambling and Video Gaming: Assessing Problematic Social Casino Gaming (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

701P Murky Nexus of Gambling and Video Gaming: Assessing Problematic Social Casino Gaming

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Wen Li Anthony, PhD, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Devin Mills, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow, Rutgers University
Lia Nower, JD, PhD, Professor, Rutgers University, NJ
Background and Purpose: Social casino games are free-play video games that simulate gambling activities, usually with better odds than online casino games. The proliferation of social casino games across various social media technologies are a growing concern, as studies have established that gambling at a young age is associated with the development of gambling problems in adulthood. Social casino games may introduce children to gambling at a very young age and prime them for the crossover to gambling with money. However, to date, no study has examined problematic social casino game play using a valid measure, which hinders a comprehensive understanding on the potential harms of this emerging technology. The purpose of this study was to: 1) develop and validate a measure to assess problematic social casino gaming; and 2) examine the relationships of problematic social casino gaming to problem gambling and mental distress.

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.