If you’re here, then we presume you’re a fan of online casinos – either that, or you’re curious and eager to learn, which we definitely respect! Either way, you probably know that there are a lot of different types of online casinos that aren’t as straightforward as exchanging quid for spins at slot machines. For example, there’s crypto casinos, which might not accept traditional currency at all, or poker sites which specialise primarily in online poker tournaments rather than any other casino game.

With the advancement of new technologies and trends, online casinos have changed as well, and new types which were unthinkable only a decade ago are now very commonplace – for example, mobile casinos, which allow you to enjoy any game on your phone while waiting for the bus, or skill-based slots which combine the thrill of the spin with the swift mind required to play blackjack or poker. But recently, a new trend has emerged, one that has left even technologically-versed gamblers scratching their heads: social casinos.

So What is a Social Casino, Exactly?

To be fair, part of the reason why social casinos have been so obscure is precisely that no one can agree on an exact definition of what precisely they are. Well… Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it’s a complicated matter, stick with us. At its core, a “social casino” would need to combine a social media platform (whether it’s an existing one, such as Reddit or Twitter, or a brand new one created specifically for the casino) with what are traditionally known as casino games. This is the one part that everyone feels comfortable agreeing with.

  • However, there’s many different nuances which all fall under the same umbrella as “social casinos” and make matters quite complicated.

For example, Facebook has quite a few social games available on its platform, for example Farmville, the megahit which caused its parent company Zynga to be sold for $12.7 billion to the publisher of the “Grand Theft Auto” series in what was, at the time, the biggest videogame deal of all time… Before being laughably overshadowed by Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard for $68.7 billion a mere week later, but the point still stands, Farmville was and still is gigantic. And while Farmville isn’t a casino game, it’s certainly a social game, and it serves as a good example of what many other social gambling titles try to achieve.

Money-Less Social Gambling

Now, imagine if someone took “Farmville”, but instead of about building a farm, they made the game about spinning reels and playing blackjack, while changing nothing else. That, esteemed reader, is the most popular example of a “social casino”. To learn more, it’s useful to look at Facebook’s own definition of the term, which very clearly states that social casino games do not actually involve any real winnings being dispensed to players: bets are placed with in-game currency, which can be earned through play or purchased with real money. This is not unlike how many popular “free to play” videogames, such as “Fortnite”, operate, allowing you to purchase in-game items with currency either bought with real money or earned through a good in-game performance.

  • However, all rewards are virtual and confined within the game. It is not possible to win any real money by playing at this type of social casino.

So, why do people actually do it? Sounds like a bum deal, right? You’re depositing your very real money, just like at a regular casino, but can’t win anything back even if you’re the luckiest person in the world! However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Due to not technically being considered “gambling”, social casinos are actually available in a lot more territories, and playing at one does not actually require a lengthy sign-up and verification process. As such, in countries where new online casinos don’t really appear all that often, it’s a good way for casino fans to get their fun. In addition, they may work to curb gambling addiction, although this is by no means a universal solution, since winning virtual coins can easily get just as addictive as winning real ones. However, for people who feel like they must play in order to get rich quick and change their lives, “easing out” of the addiction through a casino where they stand no chance of winning might be a good idea.

But What Makes These Casinos Social, Anyway?

Now that’s a great question! After all, just because a casino is hosted on a social media platform, that doesn’t necessarily make it “social”, does it? Well, going back to our earlier example, “Farmville” actually has a plethora of features which take full advantage of the social media platform it’s hosted on. There was a time where most of us couldn’t get away from our friends and family sending us requests for extra cows and crops, or to help them speed up a process that would otherwise take a few hours (or some extra in-game currency). Many people also loved to post their scores or achievements on their timeline – a phenomenon which, for better or worse, has actually continued to this very day with modern social games like “Wordle”, to the point where guides have been created on how to hide those scores from your Twitter timeline.

  • Social casino games actually operate on the exact same principle – they thrive on letting you engage your friends and show off your big wins socially.

For example, “DoubleDown Casino” is one of the most popular social casino apps available at the moment, with over 400,000 reviews on the Google Play store alone. Just like with other social casino platforms hosted on more traditional social media, you can’t actually win any real money from playing DoubleDown’s 150+ online slot games. However, what you can do is send gifts to your friends through Facebook (such as extra chips), gain bonus spins through interacting with other players and, of course, share your big wins and scores online for the world to see, both through the in-app interface and on social media. There are dozens of these types of social casino experiences, each with varying levels of integration of social features. And while you still need to be at least 21 in order to play most of them (as it should be), they’ve been quickly proving to be a worthy competitor to more traditional non-social online casino experiences.

Any Luck Playing Social Casinos for Real Money?

Earlier we said that the definition of a “social casino” is complicated, but it appears to be pretty straightforward, right? Just “free” casino games you can play on Facebook or their own dedicated social media platforms. Well… Not quite. Very recently, some casinos (more specifically in the Scandinavian countries) have started to experiment with implementing more social features into their online casino games. This includes live chat, the ability to play live casino games with your camera on (so that the dealer and other players can see you and interact more directly), and, of course, timelines and leaderboards where you can share your wins. Of course, it’s worth noting that their base of origin and target audience is very different from more “traditional” social casinos: those started from introducing casino games to existing, non-gambling social platforms, while their Scandinavian counterparts started from introducing social media features into existing online casino platforms.

  • Despite this, their similar definitions only further serve to muddy the water and confuse potential customers, making more casual players opt for neither.

Of course, it’s worth noting that we don’t actually expect this type of social casino to become very widespread throughout Europe, kind of like the aforementioned skill-based slots – sure, we’re always happy and hopeful for new gambling innovations, but at the same time, regulations have been extra strict in recent years, and will only continue to tighten. Countries like Germany already restrict casinos from having even the most basic slot features, like autoplay, so we strongly doubt that implementing social media features (something already known to be quite addictive all on its own) into casinos will be something that passes through regulators. At the same time, there are a fair number of concerns to be shared about exposing younger people to free social media casinos – while players are not permitted to play if they’re under 21, age verification for them can be skipped hilariously easily, so wouldn’t it make more sense to keep social media features in traditional casinos rather than the other way around?

We don’t have answers to those questions, nor are we trying to sound alarmist: we’re quite happy for any and all innovation which allows us to engage with online casino games in new, interesting and creative ways. However, whether social casino games belong in that category is something only the future can tell.
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