With the stressors and anxiety surrounding COVID-19, it makes sense for people to look for soothing hobbies to bide their time. And one such outlet has taken smartphone users by storm. That, of course, would be the colorful online casino apps; such as Jackpot Magic and Reel Rivals. As fun as they are, though, there are real dangers associated with becoming too consumed; namely fuel for possible gambling addictions.
NBC News actually covered the rise of casino app gambling addictions on their site, emphasizing that millions of dollars have been drained from everyday Americans. As the article explains, the online gaming industry is highly unregulated; which can pose even more risks than someone betting at a typical Las Vegas resort.
In essence, the casino apps are actually worse for bank accounts than traditional gambling. In these scenarios, people spend their real money (via credit card purchases) but never have the opportunity to win back any cash payouts. Nevertheless, the appealing graphics and slot machine simulations have hooked in millions of people across the U.S.
Nancy Shellz, a nurse from Houston, was interviewed for the NBC piece. She revealed that, via the Reel Rivals slot machine app, she and her husband had lost more than $150,000 over the course of two years. And keep in mind, Shellz (like most of the casino app players) has a blue collar background with little to no excess income.
“You know what I tell people? It’s a cult, and they suck you in, and once you’re in you can’t get out,” Shellz explained when describing her addiction. “You want to play, and you want to spin.”
This, in turn, has led to lawsuits and official complaints against the makers of these games. As of right now, Big Fish Games (the company behind Reel Rivals, among others) is in the midst of a $155 million class action suit; alleging that their products are “unlawful gambling devices.” Astonishingly, over two million players, including Shellz, are included in the plaintiff group; with possible reimbursements to come.
Additionally, more federal bills are under consideration to regulate the structure of online casino apps. The tricky part (and primary defense of companies like Big Fish Games) is that these “virtual slots” do not fall under the classification of gambling. As they put it, the fact that no money is disbursed means that you are simply paying for your enjoyment; similar to the way online games for Playstation and Nintendo are set up.
“These games are not gambling because, among other reasons, they offer no opportunity for players to win money or anything of value,” Big Fish Games explained in a statement. “Our games are offered for free purely for entertainment, with an opportunity for customers to spend money within the game to enhance their gameplay experience. The vast majority of Big Fish Casino and Jackpot Magic Slots customers play without ever paying any money. No court has yet considered all of the facts relating to how these games operate.”