Social Gaming is growing in popularity, with platforms like Facebook and Instagram serving as popular hubs for playing games without the need to make a purchase. Social casinos usually offer a variety of free casino games, including slots, blackjack, and roulette. This trend is altering how people engage with online gaming, providing a more social and interactive experience than traditional solitary casino games. In this article, we will explore the impact of social gaming on the global iGaming market, with a special focus on the Middle East.
What Exactly is Social Gaming?
Social gaming involves playing games with virtual currency instead of real money, allowing players to enjoy playing these games without any of the financial risks that are associated with playing at online casinos. Early favorites in this category included games like FarmVille, PetVille, and Candy Crush. Over time, social gaming expanded to include casino-style games such as Zynga Poker, Texas Hold’em Poker, and Slotomania, offering a casino-like experience with virtual currencies.
What Makes Social Casinos Appealing
The social component that social casinos offer sets them apart from traditional online casinos, even though they have the same games, rules, and features. These games allow players to communicate with one another, which promotes more engagement that leads to longer player retention and a higher likelihood of players returning.
Statistics show that around half of social casino players are still playing after six months, compared to only 8% of online casino players who continue playing at the same point in time. This difference highlights that social gaming significantly impacts player engagement and interest retention.
Furthermore, the shift to hosting online casino games on social media platforms, rather than traditional online casinos, has made it possible for people in regions like the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where online gambling is not legally permitted, to access these games.
The Soaring Popularity of Social Casinos in MENA
Despite religious constraints banning gambling, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region contributes a surprising 3% to the global gambling revenue. The appeal of social gaming has witnessed a substantial rise in recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. Specifically, Saudi Arabia emerges as the central hub for gaming in the Arab World, with a substantial number of people participating in gaming activities on social media platforms and offshore online casinos. However, it’s worth noting that Saudi Arabia is not the only Middle Eastern country where online casinos enjoy popularity. Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco also have many players who enjoy playing at online casinos.
The Legal Landscape of Gambling in the Middle East
The Middle East offers a complicated and diverse environment regarding gaming laws and regulations. Due to cultural and religious reasons, the majority of Middle Eastern nations forbid gambling in any form. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait uphold stringent laws against gambling, and anybody found engaging in such activities may be subject to harsh legal repercussions. However, there are some exceptions within the region. For instance, Lebanon permits specific types of gambling within its regulated casinos, and there are indications of a changing perspective on gambling in the United Arab Emirates as plans emerge for the development of a high-end gaming resort.
Social Gaming’s Impact on the Arab World
Extended periods of home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in activity on social casinos in the Arab world. Even though there is no real money betting involved in these games, there are still some possible risks involved as some players end up immersing themselves in them for extended periods of time. It’s important for people to be aware and cautious when playing social gaming, especially if they have a history of gambling problems.
Unlike online casinos, most social gaming platforms do not offer readily accessible, responsible gaming features. Therefore, it falls upon the players themselves to recognize when recreational gaming starts to transform into an addiction. Given that social gaming is now considered a part of online gaming, it is more vital than ever to raise awareness about potential gambling problems and equip all users with the necessary support and tools to prevent addiction.
The online gaming landscape is evolving, with social gaming emerging as a significant and innovative trend. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have transformed into major hubs for casino gaming, providing a unique and social gaming experience distinct from traditional online casinos. However, it’s crucial for players, especially those with a history of gambling problems, to be cautious, as social gaming platforms may not offer readily accessible, responsible gaming features. As social gaming becomes an integral part of online gaming, promoting awareness and support for responsible gaming practices is increasingly important.