Mobile gambling refers to the use of mobile devices to place wagers on games of chance or skill for money. This form of gambling can be accessed via a bespoke app, a website optimized for mobile gambling, or even over the phone or text messaging. In addition, many video gaming platforms include gambling games as a secondary form of play such as mini-games within a larger game that can be played for free or purchased with in-game currency or real money. These interactions between gambling and video games have led to an increased convergence of these two forms of technology.
The current expansion of mobile gambling has raised concerns about its potential harms to individuals. These concerns range from underage and problem gamblers to those who are already predisposed to gambling addiction or are experiencing financial difficulty. Despite the proliferation of these technologies, there has been a lack of research examining the psychological processes that drive them. This manuscript seeks to fill this gap in the literature by examining how mobile phones interact with psychological processes that are relevant to gambling. In particular, we consider how mobile phones may amplify the schedule of reinforcement in gambling applications and thus accelerate the acquisition of maladaptive learned behaviours.
While betting continues to dominate the revenue of mobile gambling operations, there is evidence that a shift towards casino style games is occurring. This is reflected in the annual reports of major mobile operators who report increased investment in these genres over the past few years. It also mirrors the trend of increasing convergence between online and video games with many modern video game developers including gambling elements such as accumulating credits or a bankroll to purchase items or progress through a level. These findings suggest that responsible gambling strategies and messages need to be tailored for this new and emerging technology. This will be challenging given the tendency of users to engage with these activities in short bursts of time – frequently just a few minutes at a time. The brevity of these sessions, coupled with the fact that they are often ad-supported, could exacerbate problematic behaviours if not carefully monitored.