With the advent of social media and the massive growth in social networking platforms such as Facebook, a new dynamic, and innovative niche sector has emerged. Social casinos and other play for free slots and casino games sites have become increasingly popular. Most of these games are free. No money is wagered, and no money can be won. Despite this, software developers have managed to create entertaining games that keep players playing, continuously for extended periods of time.
The growth in social casino and play for fun slots sites has lead many industry analysts keen to investigate and understand what impact, if any the popularity of social gaming has had on actual gaming habits, in particular, what the effect is on a players wagering habits.
For gambling operators, this is an important question. Many casinos and slot operators have initially eyed the growth in social casino and free play slot sites with some suspicion. While many would be quick to point out the importance of free play games in showcasing an online casinos functionality, and in attempting to get customers through their virtual doors, the fact that the majority of social gaming sites were effectively free to play made it difficult to determine what if any financial value could be attained by attempting to acquire these players as customers.
Indeed, many traditional online casino operators understood the technical and financial challenges in developing casino and slot software, and the thought of having to create further free to play casino games on a third party social networking platform presented a number of obstacles, both strategic and practical.
A core fear must undoubtedly have been one of control. Social casinos and other free slots sites require a significant amount of investment, not only in terms of actually creating the games in the first place but also in maintaining them and providing adequate customer support. At the time the first free to play sites were established, the actual lifetime player value was difficult to ascertain. With significant financial investments required, it’s now easy to see why many leading gambling operators simply deferred decisions to a future date. With hindsight, this would prove to be an expensive mistake.
By not immediately moving into the social casino and free play slot sectors, many operators lost the initiative to smaller, more dynamic game developers. They say that the ‘fortune favors the brave’ and that certainly appears to be the case here. A number of innovative developers went ahead and developed free to play games to satisfy the demand for them on the major social networking platforms. In doing so, a number of these businesses attained near instant success, both commercially and financially.
However, recent developments in the social casino and free slots arena have created a considerable amount of confusion, if not downright concern. In early 2018, a court ruling in the United States labeled these free social games as illegal in Washington. Where this leaves other social casino sites, particularly in the United States is uncertain at this time. And no one likes uncertainty – not developers, shareholders, legislators or indeed players.
Clearly, given that these social casino sites are attracting the attention of the legal sectors, one can only assume that these sites have some impact on gambling behavior. A recent study on the ‘Migration of social casino games to gambling‘ recognised that the gambling sectors and social casino industry were converging and that a minority of social casino game players gambled as a result of these games.
The future of the social casino and free to play slots sector is one that looks set to continue to attract a considerable amount of attention. The real question is that given the apparent decline in the growth of popular social networking platforms, is the social casino sector also past its peak?