A sophisticated new-generation of gaming devices that can easily be downloaded onto mobile phones and other appliances are hooking increasingly younger players with the risk that some might become addicts, according to industry specialists.
Attempts by the gaming and software industry to ban the products is being easily flouted by product providers marketing their appliances directly to users.
Lucas, 19, a part-time cashier at a supermarket, claims it “only took a few $20 wins” for him to become addicted within three weeks.
Lucas, who nearly lost $4000 in a month, said: “I could not stop. My job was in jeopardy and so were my friendships.”
He said he was hooked by several small wins and an “occasional large one that distracted me from the losses”.
Gaming apps are growing about five-times faster than conventional gambling at casinos and race tracks, making them extremely attractive for gaming companies.
The amount gambled on apps is expected to double to about $200 billion in 2017, according to industry estimates.
Max Gore, a gaming product designer for mobiles, said the games are created to replicate the same emotional low and highs a gambler might experience at a casino.
“A lot of development emphasis goes into the interface such as flashing lights, quality and unique graphics, and all the bells and whistles to keep a player engaged”, Mr Gore said.
The main aim for a betting app is “convenience for the user” so that “everything is done quickly and easily”, he said.
For example, a lot of research goes into accelerating the “overall speed” to keep gamblers focused on the game.
“There is minimal loading times, large buttons, and few options,” Mr Gore said.
Major app distributors such as the Apple Store and Google Play Store recognise the potential for addiction and have banned them.
But they can be easily downloaded directly through owner’s websites.
Paul Hill, who once traveled to Crown Casino each week to gamble, has decided to gamble from home.
Mr Hill, 25, who loves blackjack and poker, has switched to app gambling, even though he hoped that not visiting the casino would have slowed his wagers.
Mr Gore said the younger generations’ “constant use” and “finesse” on mobile devices make them ideal candidates for gaming apps.
By contrast, Dean Bradley, 43, is a Crown Casino regular who has thought about switching to apps but ultimately “did not feel at home” on the new gaming technology.