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Does gambling on your smartphone make real-money casino gaming apps more addictive?

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We all know how addictive regular gaming apps can become, even relative non-gamers like me, who need only wait barely two seconds after picking up my kid in the afternoon carpool before I feel the “tap-tap-tap” on my shoulder that tells me it’s time to hand over my iPhone 5 so she can crush her next round of Temple Run 2.

That kind of affinity is cute and perhaps even beneficial. Maybe those hand-eye coordination theories that my child has spouted back at me are really true. Game on! After all, no money in general is being exchanged in some of those games, at least not via the ones that offer no in-app purchases – and the ones that do require my permission and passcode to proceed. But these days, even fake lottery gaming apps are being supplanted by real ones, like the Illinois lottery app – the first one in the nation that went live January 15, 2014, and experienced 136,000 downloads and $958,630 in sales from the app by April 19, 2014. That’s nearly a cool million garnered in approximately three months through an app whose launch wasn’t heavily advertised. What does that tell us about the future of gambling on our smartphones?

From racetracks in the 1970s to apps in the twenty-tens

Whether you’re a fan of mobile casinos that make gambling seem more akin to a game of Candy Crush Saga or apps like the lottery ones being released, if you grew up like me, chances are that gambling is in your blood. (Or an addictive personality type. I mean, check out the story about one woman who fell down a flight of stairs due to being so engrossed in Candy Crush Saga.)

Growing up in Chicago, I often accompanied my mother and her father out to Arlington International Racecourse, a horse race track nearly an hour’s drive northwest of our south side of the city home. Sometimes boring, many times magical, the famous track’s presence makes me smile when I recall memories of standing at the railing, marveling at the horses as they ran full speed mere feet away from us on the outside track. Then there were the Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches, or the time my sister urged me to remain seated as the horses rounded the bend, and the adults seemed like towering trees as they stood and screamed at the jockey to “Whip that horse!” so theirs would win the race by much longer than a photo-finish nose.

Eventually, off-track betting parlors sprang up closer to home, replacing the glorious outdoor days with seedy and smoky literal losers. The casino boats eventually took the shine away from the OTB establishments littering the highways, and now it seems like all the gambling fun is moving even more readily online – not just accessible via websites but throughout apps stores as well.

It’s easy to stay away from Vegas: We’ve had our fun and prospered and lost in many a casino up and down the famous strip. And most days I walk past those lottery scratch-off machines in my local grocery store, because they only accept cash as of this writing, and more often than not I don’t carry cash on me.

Today was an exception, though, when I popped $5 into the machine and quickly turned it into a $10 win – something I only realized after using my Ohio Lottery app scanner on my iPhone to check the barcode at the bottom for the results. The question is: As more and more states adopt lottery apps and companies place additional gambling apps online that are accessible with the tap of a smartphone screen, will it be just as easy to double my money as I did with the scratch-off tickets? Time and chance happen to all.


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