The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has published a new report called Snapshot of Social Casinos, which provides insights into consumer habits and industry trends for this growing market. The report shows Australia was in the top five markets by consumer spend as of the first half of 2022.
Social casinos provide online casino-style games without offering the ability to win real money. They are typically free to download and play but users can spend real money on in-game purchases. Global revenue from these games is projected to grow around 5% per annum through 2025.
Five of the biggest social casino companies – Aristocrat, Moon Active, Zynga, SciPlay and Playtika – comprise around 60% of the global market. Some of these companies specifically rely on revenue generated from social casinos, while others are more diversified, with less reliance on social casinos for revenue.
According to ACMA, social casino gaming experienced a strong uptake during the pandemic, with a sharp jump in demand and revenue during 2020 and, to a lesser extent 2021, as users pivoted their habits to mobile and online spaces. As restrictions were lifted, competition for users’ time and spending grew, with revenue from social casinos declining from the peak it saw during the lockdown years.
It has been estimated there are 85 million daily players worldwide. Some research indicates players of social casinos tend to be older with a close-to-even proportion of males and females. Separate research indicates younger males are more likely to spend money on social casino games.
According to the industry data platform data.ai, the United States is the biggest market for social casino games by consumer spend, with 60% of the market share. China, Taiwan, Australia and Canada round out the top 5 markets, as of the first half of 2022.
Slots are the most popular social casino games, with Australians spending $302 million on mobile slot games in 2021. Some companies have combined traditional casino games with other types of gameplay to increase their appeal.
According to the report released by ACMA, social casino developers are currently looking to other game genres to expand their appeal and user base. They are using in-game mechanics like guilds and leaderboards often seen in casual and competitive games to encourage engagement and retain users.
Social casinos are not regulated under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. Because users cannot cash out winnings, the games do not meet the definition of a gambling service, which requires games to be played for money or anything else of value.
Industry data on social casino game download trends shows that global downloads declined after their pandemic peak of 291.6 million in Q2, 2020. It recovered in Q1, 2022, when the download trend exceeded that figure, and reached 322.2 million downloads worldwide.
This was driven by a 48% year-on-year growth for global downloads between 2021-22, with India as the fastest-growing market at 513.7 million downloads and year-over-year growth of 188.7%.
The social casino market is experiencing significant growth in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the 3 key markets of China, Japan and South Korea, and in the emerging market of India.
The Asia-Pacific market is expected to see the fastest growth in social casinos by 2026, due to the growing use of smartphones, easier internet access and growing digitalization in the region.
“Previously, the complexities of APAC market’s non-homogenous approach to payment, infrastructure, languages and regulations compared to North America discouraged global operators from entering the market,” ACMA said.
“With the success of domestic social casino games in China, South Korea and Japan, global operators are now entering the market by localizing games with repackaged user interfaces and cultural themes. This includes games mimicking the look, feel and sounds of local land-based casinos to give users a sense of cultural familiarity,” the regulator explained.