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Simulated Gambling: An Explorative Study Based on a Representative Survey

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Gambling usually involves wagering real money but can also be conducted with virtual money, chips, or coins. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as simulated gambling, social gambling, or play money gambling. This study explores correlations and transitions between simulated gambling and real money gambling with an emphasis on gambling-related harms and public health concerns. The analysis is based on a national representative survey of 46,136 German Internet users which included 5,191 real money online gamblers (RMG), 54% of whom had also participated in simulated gambling (SG). The data set is divided into subsamples based on participation in SG to carve out significant differences in these groups in regard to various socio demographics, gambling patterns, and gambling problems. Regression models are used to predict RMG frequency, participation in SG, SG participation frequency, and problem gambling. The results show a clear proximity between SG and RMG with 17% of the total sample and 54% of problem gamblers reporting being “quite sure” or “certain” that simulated gambling had led them to gambling with real money. While 7% of individuals that engaged exclusively in RMG showed gambling problems, the rate is 33% for those that engaged in both RMG and SG. Regression results provide further evidence of a relationship between SG and problem gambling, although with differing effect sizes for different game forms. We argue that SG can be both a substitute and a primer for RMG, especially for problem gamblers.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.


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Correspondence to Ingo Fiedler.

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None of the authors has any competing interests that are related to the work submitted for publication.

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The data was collected through a professional panel provider. All data made available to the researchers were anonymized. The panel provider ensures for professional ethics and data protection. In particular, the service provider points out adherence to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), European Society for Opinion and Market Research’s (ESOMAR) guidelines for professional conduct as specified in the “International Code of Marketing and Social Research Practice” by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and ESOMAR as well as codices by the BVM (Berufsverband Deutscher Markt-und Sozialforscher e.V.; the governing body of German market research).

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Table 6 Distribution of PGSI across populations
Table 7 Temporal order of SG and RMG across SG game form populations
Table 8 Response distribution on the question of SG leading individuals to RMG across SG game form populations
Table 9 Descriptive statistics on gambling characteristics for groups of play money gamblers

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Fiedler, I., Ante, L., Meduna, M. et al. Simulated Gambling: An Explorative Study Based on a Representative Survey. J Gambl Stud 40, 255–274 (2024).

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