Telling the difference between games and gambling can be hard

With thousands of free apps and video games available that mimic gambling, working out the difference between gaming and gambling is getting harder.

As well as being everywhere, many of these gambling-themed apps and video games use inflated odds - giving young people the impression that winning is just as easy in the real world.

On top of this, advertising on many of these apps and games leads to real gambling sites, creating an easy pathway from fake gambling to real gambling.

Australian research shows teens playing these apps may:

  • think gambling is a normal, everyday activity
  • be more inclined to take up gambling
  • be more confident about winning due to false beliefs about gambling odds

Even though teens can’t win real money from these apps, they can spend real money on in-app purchases to boost their chances in the game. These often cost only a few dollars, but a player in the ‘zone’ can quickly rack up expenses.

Video games like 'Grand Theft Auto' and 'The Sims', and even complimentary games on Nintendo DS consoles, feature gambling by including casino and poker machine elements.

The good news is that you can help your child understand how gambling actually works, despite these games making it seem like a regular and easy way to win money. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be an expert before you talk to your teen. These games are constantly changing and you can’t be expected to know about them all. The trick is to talk to them about how these games make gambling feel more normal, and can be misleading about their chances of winning; so the next time they come across one of these games, they’ll be a little more savvy.

Ask your teen if you can look at the trending games in the Apple Store or on Google Play together and see if you can spot games that look like gambling. Tell them these might be using inflated odds to give false confidence and mention how small, in-app purchases can add up quickly.

For more information about games that look like gambling and how to talk to your teen about them, go to: 

Dianne Martin

Deputy Head of Senior School



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