Could online gaming turn into gambling?

And this is how gambling works. Because you win so much less than you lose, the good feeling of flutter happens much less than the bad feeling of losing. Sitting in front of a game losing doesn’t feel good, so you stay for the win.

The people who make the games know exactly how many wins to sprinkle among the losses to keep you hooked. They did the maths, and they make sure that in the end, they’re the ones winning.

One sly trick is called a near miss – that’s when you almost win something but not quite. It’s like when a fruit machine throws up two cherries, but not quite three. This makes you think you’ve almost got there, and if you just try again, you might win.

But guess what? A lose is a lose, even if it’s a near-miss, so don’t get fooled; this is just a clever trick.

Getting hooked can even happen before you’re using “real money”. Lots of games work like gambling, either by using virtual money, or something you’re trying to collect like cookies, stars, or other loot. Once you get used to that flutter of the win, you might find yourself doing it more, or playing longer than you expected, or finding it hard to put a game down.

If this is happening to you, you should talk to someone about it.

Once you’re used to playing with play money, it’s easier to move on to the real thing. That’s because if you’re gambling over a phone or computer, it feels like the play money you got used to in your games.

But now it is real and it will be coming out of somebody’s bank account – probably a parent or guardian.

When you get hooked, and you realise you’re losing a lot more than you’re winning, a flutter doesn’t feel so good. That flutter can turn into full-on anxiety and worry, which is no fun. It can also result in big debts that you try to recover by playing even more.

This is a cycle you want to avoid.

So catch it early! Learn to understand how it all works, and don’t get yourself into a cycle. If you find yourself addicted to games, make sure you take time out and talk to someone about what’s happening.

Don’t level up to real gambling. If you find you’re already stuck in a cycle, don’t make it worse. Get help to stop and find your “flutter” in better ways.

Dr Aaron is one of Own It's experts and supporters. If you're worried you might need help with an addiction, you can contact Childline for advice.

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