Last year we reported on the increasing concern amongst many as to the potential dangers to U.K. gamblers in regard to social games. At the time industry experts pointed out that online players whom are under the legal age to gamble are already being exposed to what is termed as free-to-play- casino styled games. While in theory these casino games are played for virtual currency, many believe that they are the first step in addicting underage users who currently have full access to these games via social networks like Facebook.

These same concerns are now being voiced down under where a survey by Sally Gainsbury at Australia’s Southern Cross University’s Centre for Gambling Education and Research is shedding light on this controversial topic. The research found what many critics of social casino games always claimed.

While the actual games are defined as a “freemium” experience which means that the app is free but extra gaming bonuses and features come at a cost. According to Gainsbury, “It really is a training, or priming, for real money gambling , which can then obviously end up with serious problems for when people spend more money than they can afford.”

One of the most popular social casino apps is Slotomania which was singled out for posing a real risk to potential gambling addicts. Slotomania offers a new player 200 coins to start playing for free but then the player has to purchase additional chips for real cash. This has led to others like Charles Livingstone from the School of Public Health and preventative Medicine at Monash University who believes that children could easily become addicted to these casino games and even use their parent’s credit cards to purchase more bonus chips.

These concerns are further strengthened by the fact that Slotomania was the top grossing iTunes app for 2012. While essentially being a free simulated casino app it is still rated for ages 12+ in the iTunes app store.

Many point out the fact that online players almost always win on the free-to-play casino games per design of the app developer. However in the real money gambling option this is not the case. What remains clear is that all over the globe there is currently no legislation regulating social casino gaming which many believe is a burning issue that needs to be addressed in order to avoid gambling addictions with underage players.

With giant social networks like Facebook already offering real money gambling options and the growth of mobile gaming, there is hardly a person who interacts on any social network where some sort of gambling is not offered. With online gambling estimated to reach at least $100 billion by 2017 the issue of responsible marketing and control of casino-based games is a topic which is sure to be at the top of many governments agenda in the future.