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Social gaming

Some of the games you can play online might look like gambling but do not meet the legal definition. They may involve a game of chance for a prize and may use gambling mechanics such as cards or dice but, crucially from a narrow legal perspective, if the prize is not money or money’s worth, they are not gambling under UK legislation.

Some of these games are ‘social’ in the sense that interaction with other people is a key feature of the gaming or gambling.

The boundaries between social gaming and commercial gambling have become increasingly blurred as a result of:

  • the growth in use of social media for social gaming and gambling
  • an increasing convergence between the products of traditional gambling and social gaming businesses
  • significant investment  by companies developing new products or ways of marketing existing products.

Looking into the boundaries between social gaming and commercial gambling

In order to explore these areas further we commissioned a scoping review, worked with other regulators and with the social gaming industry to assess the potential risks present in social gaming.

Based on the data we saw, and subject to its limitations, we do not consider there is a persuasive case to move from an historical ‘watching brief’ stance we had adopted:

  • While the data suggests that, in general, the vast majority of people who play social games spend very modest amounts of time and money, there is clearly a very small group who spend significant amounts. However, it is likely that this group is not sufficiently large to justify any form of additional regulatory intervention.
  • While playing social games does not appear to be harmful in itself (for the vast majority of players) we are much less clear on whether in some circumstances it leads on to, or causes, more harmful behaviours.

We continue to monitor the market, getting regular updates from a number of key stakeholders and identifying any additional risks to players.

Also see

Virtual currencies, esports and social gaming

Discussion paper

137 KB Download

Social gaming

Discussion paper

126 KB Download