Gaming and Gambling

Learn about the risk factors of video and online social casino gaming, tips on
how to play safer and the warning signs
of problematic play.

Online gaming can be a fun source of entertainment – providing you with the chance to socialize with your friends, build your problem solving skills and work your imagination as you immerse yourself into a new digital world.

However, it’s important to note that the link between online gambling and gaming is fast becoming blurred. Both are accessible from the same devices, a smartphone or computer, have elements of skill and chance, and are visually stimulating. Recently, gaming platforms have begun to incorporate “gambling-like” elements, like loot boxes, which are considered a form of gambling in some countries.

This may be the new norm, but it’s not without risks. Excessive player involvement can seriously impact lives and relationships.

Understanding the nature of gaming, gambling and the potential risks is the first step to making informed decisions about your play.

Video Gaming

Sophisticated and engaging video game features can lead to potentially negative impacts.

  • Mechanics and visual design

    • Video games are designed for maximum, continuous play. 3D and Virtual Reality graphics, colour and sound, as well as the perceived skill required, all add to the appeal.
    • Potential harm: Player over-involvement can impact physical and mental health, friend and family relationships, and school or work.
  • Monetization features

    • These include free and paid virtual currencies or items. There’s also the capacity for gambling, such as the use of real money to purchase loot boxes which offer chances to win random rewards. Example: Fortnite.
    • Potential harm: The likelihood of winning with loot boxes is slim. The anticipation and surprise elements may also affect player judgment. In fact, research shows that there is an association between loot box buying and problem gambling (Li, Mills, & Nower, 2019).
  • Embedded, simulated gambling environment

    • Gambling with other players through simulated poker, blackjack and other traditional gambling forms using virtual currency are offered as a side activity. Example: Red Dead Redemption.
    • Potential harm: Greater exposure to and opportunity for gambling within game play. There is no legal age restrictions, with some games targeting children 3+ years. Example: PlayStation 2’s Casino Challenge.

Online Social Casino Gaming (SCG)

Online social casino games are free-to-play games, available on social media platforms such as Facebook, that simulate gambling activities. Popular examples include Lightning Slots and Golden City Casino.

There are various features and potential negatives impacts of SCGs you should be aware of.

  • Free-to-play and without age restrictions

    SCGs are everywhere and easily accessible on social networking sites, websites, apps, smartphones and tablets.

  • Potential harm

    Accessibility at no cost has made these games ultra-popular, but they can introduce children and young adults to gambling at an early age. Example: Candy Crush Saga.

  • Simulated gambling features

    Enable players to wager real money, with the offer of unusually high pay-out rates and higher probabilities of winning compared to real gambling.

  • Potential harm

    Mimicking traditional gambling normalizes gambling behaviours. Pay-out rates and win probabilities that exceed the norm provide a false sense of confidence.

Tips to Help Minimize the Risks

  • Plan ahead by arranging your day with other recreational activities in addition to gaming
  • Decide on the amount of time you are going to spend before you start and stick to your limit (wear a watch or set your phone alarm)
  • Limit play through self-imposed boundaries: ensure home, academic  or professional obligations are met before playing
  • Interrupt screen time: take frequent breaks by getting fresh air or doing another activity which will allow for a self-check (eg. time and money spent and emotional state)
  • Establish a wind-down ritual before bed: disengage from all devices to help relax your brain and benefit sleep
  • Don’t online play as your online source of entertainment

Spot the Warning Signs of Problematic Play

Safer gaming and gambling starts with identifying important early signals that players may be going over their limits.

  • Feeling restless and/or irritable when unable to play
  • Lying about the amount of time spent online every day
  • Becoming isolated from family and friends
  • Skipping school or work
  • Lack of interest in other activities once enjoyed
  • Neglecting personal needs (eg. for food, sleep, hygiene)
  • Physical problems from excessive play (headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain)

There are resources available to help if you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s gaming or gambling.

Who’s at Risk?

Find out why some groups are more likely than others to develop a gambling problem.


Tips for safer gambling

Learn strategies for playing safe and reducing potential harms.


Tips to Keep Your Gambling Safe

Teens & Gambling

Get the facts about teens and gambling so you can spot risky behaviour before it becomes a problem.