Money aside, corrupting the vulnerable is one of the most heated debates in online gambling today. Jurisdictions across the globe have created numerous laws to protect their young from the perceived dangers of gambling. Some countries have gone so far as to ban electronic games of any kind to reduce the risk of exposing kids to Internet gambling. Others have imposed heavy fines for any company that allows minors to place wagers, assists them in betting in any way, or even employs them. Naturally, social casinos are next on the chopping block. Anatomy of a Social Casino Unlike other online casinos, a social casino doesn’t permit players to bet with real money. While they often still host many of the popular and traditional casino games like slots, table games, poker and bingo, they do so with a virtual currency that cannot be exchanged for real cash. They have been created for many reasons. Some exist to test markets to see if Internet betting will be popular in an area when real-money wagers aren’t legally permitted. Others are designed to be companions to land-based casinos, in an attempt to keep patrons loyal between visits. Some are also out there just to give players a chance to try games before they hit a real online casino. The latest varieties, however, are entirely different, designed to be more like a traditional online game than a casino game. They incorporate features like levels, unlocking rewards, and require collaborative efforts in order to progress. Because social games don’t make money from bets, they often charge for progression to later levels or monetize with ads. Popular Social Casinos Social casinos are gaining in popularity. Williams Interactive, an offshoot of the favorite casino software developer WMS Gaming, is responsible for the social casino Jackpot Party. Another leading company in online casino software development, IGT, created the popular Doubledown Casino, and Novomatic developed Greentube. Zynga has also created a series of popular games, as has Big Fish Games. Most recently, the vintage brand, Atari, launched a social casino as well. While most of these companies have unique websites dedicated to their own social casino brand, some of them lease their free games to others. They’re also available on mobile apps, Facebook, Yahoo, and other popular sites, depending on the manufacturer. The Debate The argument against them is that these social games not only encourage people to transition from free games to paid-betting venues, but also target youth. Studies have been done to show that there is little crossover between the paid and free games. This recently came to light when land-based venues in Atlantic City rolled out their online operations and discovered the brick-and-mortar ones didn’t take a hit. However, it’s fairly obvious that many of these games do have an energetic or youthful vibe about them. Atari’s casino requires that players create an avatar, which can be then dressed up and customized to suit preferences. Others simply have titles that might appeal to kids, like Jackpot Party’s Invaders from the Planet Moolah. Whether or not minors are truly attracted to these games was really the only remaining question until recently. Study The International Social Games Association (ISGA) decided to do a little research on the subject. The ISGA is an association for those with a hand in social gaming, designed to look out for the industry’s legal needs, as well as to educate policy makers and the public. They’re a global non-profit, with members such as Aristocrat, Bally Technologies, Big Fish Games, Gamesys, High five Games, IGT, MGM, Play Studios and Zynga. The ISGA contracted a senior lecturer in marketing at The University of Sydney to conduct the research. They provided Dr. Rohan Miller data from some of their member’s free game services, and the results might be a bit surprising to some. Key Findings The report, “A Snapshot of Youth in the Digital Playground,” uncovered that over 99-percent of social online casino games are adults. Of those between the ages of 13-18 who did play social casino games, just 0.56-percent actually paid to play. Taking players of all ages into consideration, as well as paying and non-paying gamers, underage paying players only accounted for 0.004-percent overall. The study’s final conclusion was that social online casinos do not attract youth, and that concerns of corruption are invalid. Furthermore, it points the finger at governments, media and others, claiming they are responsible for the false “moral panic” over the situation. Even though The ISGA study was carried out by a third-party, perhaps there is still room to question the results. After all, they chose what data to provide the researchers. This still leaves the integrity of the final results squarely in the hands of those who develop social casino games. Conversely, the study could be truly accurate in portraying today’s youth as uninterested in social casino games, let alone the real-cash varieties. If that’s the case, adults everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing their jackpots are safe from them too.