The increased popularity of casino games on social media platforms has prompted international jurisdictions to consider the extent to which these games may be similar to Internet gambling activities and therefore subject to regulatory action. Gambling themes are popular in video and computer games, and simulated-gambling activities are commonly offered by gambling operators as a way of enticing users to gamble online with money. However, little research has evaluated the impact of the digital convergence of gambling and gaming. The lack of a clear definition of online gambling-themed activities to guide such research undertakings lsm99 represents a significant hurdle to the fields of gambling and gaming. Based on a review of the extant literature, this article proposes a taxonomy to distinguish between many types of online activities with gambling-themed content. This taxonomy suggests that the principal features that differentiate online gambling games include the requirement for payment, the role of skill, the type of platform and the centrality of the gambling theme. The proposed hierarchical framework aims to promote clear and consistent discussion to guide ongoing investigation of new and emerging Internet gambling and gaming technologies.
A taxonomy of gambling and casino games via social media and Internet technologies
Internet technology has changed the way in which consumers engage in many activities, including those with a long history of use such as gambling and gaming. This article aims to develop a taxonomy to classify online gambling-themed activities, including gambling and gaming, based on their structural characteristics. Internet gambling refers to gambling that takes place through the Internet using connected devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and interactive television (Gainsbury, Wood, Russell, Hing, & Blaszczynski, 2012). The terms ‘online’, ‘interactive’, ‘Internet’ and ‘remote’ gambling are often used interchangeably in relation to gambling across various jurisdictions. The Internet gambling market is expanding; worldwide, gross win from Internet gambling has risen annually by 14% during the last decade and the market is expected to generate €28.24 billion in gross win by 2015, with an annual growth of 9% (H2 Gambling Capital, 2013). The slowing growth of Internet gambling is one sign of increasing market maturity and may also reflect increased industry regulation aimed at providing consumers with safer products, although there are substantial differences in licensing requirements between jurisdictions (Gainsbury & Wood, 2011). Many international jurisdictions restrict Internet gambling as well as its advertising. However, increased popularity of social media has led to new ways to reach consumers, which gambling operators are increasingly exploiting.
The term ‘social media’ refers to Internet sites and platforms (including mobile applications) on which the sole or dominant purpose is to facilitate social interactions between individual users to exchange information, communicate and/or undertake collaborative activities. Interactions typically revolve around a focal point such as a personal profile, discussion board, photo or video sharing, product reviews, blog post or geographical location. Users may include individuals or groups (and companies) who are both consumers and publishers of content. Popular social media channels include social networks, blogs, microblogs, message boards, forums, video and picture sharing, social bookmarking, podcasts and vidcasts, wikis, groups and virtual worlds (ZigZag Media, cited by Church-Sanders, 2011). In addition to providing new ways for people to connect with others by sharing personal content, some social media platforms, including social networking sites such as Facebook and virtual worlds, also provide socially oriented games as well as a way for gamers to communicate with one another.
One of the most popular and profitable genres of social games are those which replicate gambling activities but are free to play. The sudden and continuing growth in this market has prompted increased research and policy attention to developing legal and other conceptual definitions of these activities, and debate over the need to regulate social games given their many similarities to Internet gambling. Policymakers from several jurisdictions, including Australia, the UK, Belgium and Spain, have expressed concerns about the potential impact of online games which resemble gambling. However, the lack of research on the impact of these games makes regulation difficult to justify. Further, in response to a proposed ban on gambling-themed games in Australia, the Federal Government department which regulates Internet gambling stated that it was difficult to restrict the games, given the absence of clear definitions (Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 2013). To be useful to regulators, any such definition would need to distinguish similarities and differences between gambling-themed social games and Internet gambling based on the inherent characteristics of each.