Social Casino Gaming

Social media casinos have taken an intermediate position between classic online casinos and non-casino games with the ability to donate — buy virtual items, bonuses or virtual currency for real money.

Traditional gambling attracts players who are driven by the desire to win money and worry about losing it. There is no player anxiety about money in the games offered by social casinos, everything is vice versa: users find social casino games relaxing. And they come there for entertainment.

An Overview of the Est. $4.4 Billion Social Casino Gambling Market

I saw a stat (pulled from a decade ago) that said more than 1.6 billion people gamble each year.

Knowing that, would you be surprised to hear that even more people play social casino games? One statistic said that more than 11 million users visit the top social casino games on Facebook daily.

That comes out to more than 4 billion users per year. About 2.5x the number of people who gamble for real money.

Now, that is only the user-base and not money spent or earned. Social games are nowhere near traditional gambling in that sense, where traditional gambling generates $100+ billion each year.

But social gambling is still brand new, and it’s still growing. It’s currently a $3.4 billion niche market with experts estimating it’ll reach $4.4 billion by 2017. It makes up 4% of the overall $91 billion social gaming market — which is comparable to traditional gambling.

The point is this: social casino gaming is a big deal.

So big, in fact, that many traditional poker and casino companies are buying their way into this space. We have a few examples later on, but the most current example is the World Poker Tour. On August 31st, 2016, they announced the launch of their social casino platform, PlayWPT, which includes both poker and slot games.

Anyway, chances are you’re already familiar with social games. Maybe you already have a favorite social slots or blackjack game you play. If not, then we’ll bet you’ve at least seen these games on your Facebook.

If not, that’s okay too. Either way, you’re about to learn (more) about social casino gaming. The following sections will cover:

  • What social gaming is.
  • How social gambling is different from traditional gambling.
  • Social gambling companies and games.
  • Risks and downsides (including addiction).
  • Thoughts on why social gambling is legal while many forms of (online) gambling is not.
  • What the future has in store for social gamers.

Let’s get to it.

What is Social Gambling?

If you do any amount of research on this topic, you’ll quickly find out that everyone has their own definition of what social gaming or social gambling is.

It’s even more confusing when you talk about gambling because social gambling can also mean poker and casino games you play in a home with other people.

But, for our purpose here, social gambling means playing casino games on social networks like Facebook or MySpace.

These games are usually played in your browser or from a mobile app on your tablet or phone.

First timer? Getting started is simple. Here’s the process I went through to launch Zynga Poker on Facebook:

  • Logged into Facebook.
  • Typed “poker” into the search bar. Found and clicked Zynga Poker.
  • Chose what details I wanted to share with them.
  • Declined offers to purchase chips or upgrade my account.
  • Chose the SNG section. Chose a game to enter.

That’s it. Each game is different, but getting started is as simple as playing at a traditional poker room or casino — minus the need or option to deposit real money.

And that’s because you won’t find real money social gambling. For various reasons. It’s illegal in some countries, and in others …well, real money games have been attempted, but ultimately failed.

To be clear — you can spend money. You can buy chips, gifts for other players, VIP upgrades and all kinds of stuff. It depends on the game you play. But for various reasons — some we discuss below — you won’t receive anything of tangible value.

What Makes Social Games …Social?

What makes these social games — other than being hosted and played on a social network — is that most games include some form of social interaction. This can include any combination of the following:

  • Playing with other players.
  • Sharing your results with your friends or followers.
  • Inviting others to play the game with you.
  • Posting awards, accolades and achievements to your profile.

And so on.

This in turn can create a viral effect that can quickly build a self-sustaining, perpetuating user-base for the game. Assuming the game’s any good, of course.

This is a bit different from traditional gambling in that they need to rely more on advertising and affiliates to grow. Part of this is probably due to the stigma that follows traditional gambling, whereas social gambling isn’t scrutinized as much.

On a smaller level, social gaming companies use different strategies to get you to share and come back to play their games. In many ways they mirror traditional video games, even though social games are less challenging and have shorter game play.

For example, here are two common strategies developers use:

  • Continuous goals.

You are given different goals to achieve, each one harder and more time consuming than the last. Each action you take will push you towards a goal that can lead to higher gaming capital.

  • Gaming capital.

This comes in many forms, such as badges, trophies, accolades and achievements. These can be earned by playing or by completing tasks, such as sharing the game or your results to your profile.

Gaming capital is one of the biggest differences between social casino games and traditional casinos. The former you’re playing for virtual goods, which we’ll talk more about later, whereas in the latter you’re playing for real money.

From a developer and psychological perspective, they do this to give you meaning; to justify all the time you spend playing or to gain an improved sense of self and to complete goals (thus complete a sense of self).

You also have reason to come back to play more.