A longitudinal quantitative and qualitative study was carried out between 2012 and 2017 on students initially in Secondary 3, 4 or 5 in 11 high schools in three regions of Québec. This study revealed that young people who gamble online in Demo mode (free play with virtual bets), especially poker, are more likely to switch to real bets and engage in a wider range of internet gambling activities.
The impact of gambling in Demo mode on real gambling is more pronounced with poker, according to the results of this study.
Many participants mentioned that gambling in Demo mode allows them to learn and perfect their skills for gambling in real mode. However, some also said that online casinos mislead players by allowing them to win more often in Demo mode than in real mode, and pointed out that online sites with Demo mode are often promoting real gambling. Thus, while many young people switch from Demo mode to real mode to win money, some do it to increase the sense of challenge and competition.
In any case, few youths in this school sample developed gambling problems during the four years of the study. Young women were the least likely to do so, as were youth with little or no problem with psychoactive substance use, who were less impulsive and who engaged less often in Demo mode gambling.
Gambling prevention activities should cover gambling in Demo mode, what differentiates it from real money gambling, and how websites with Demo mode gambling incite players to bet real money. It is also important to specifically address poker, as the impact of gambling in Demo mode on real gambling is more pronounced with poker, according to the results of this study. Measures could target boys who use psychoactive substances and are more impulsive.
Natacha Brunelle, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Deposit of the research report: January 2018