New Jersey's Division of Gambling Enforcement put out a call for proposals last week for skill-based social games – think "Candy Crush" – but played for money and in a casino.
And the proposal is likely to meet its goal of "appealing to a new generation of players," said Jeffrey Beck, assistant director of clinical services at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.
But Beck also has concerns about the "powerful opportunity" for financial reward for things people already do socially, and the impact of turning kids' games into gambling games.
And he said it's important for new means of gambling to allow players to self-exclude. Some methods include excluding yourself when "you've realized you can't stop, timeouts, being given information about services available to help, [and] just understanding more about probability" he said.
Jeremy Frank, an addiction psychologist in Philadelphia, echoed some of Beck's concerns.
He said making gambling like a game, "suggests that it's OK, it's a backwards way of condoning it."
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Young people need to be educated on how to respond to games that target their demographic, Frank added. "While I personally believe it's not wrong ... our education system and families need to make sure that we're educating young people about probability and about marketing."
Officially, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey is "neutral" on measures related to legislation and policy. But Beck said the organization works closely with the state's Division of Gambling Enforcement to make gambling safer.
After the state introduced Internet gambling last year, "the National Council on Problem Gambling put out some standards for Internet play," Beck said. "And the New Jersey division sat down with us on several occasions and said, 'Are we compliant?' And that's really what we want."
The games in the proposal are a part of the New Jersey First Program, a pipeline to get new games on casino floors in as little as 14 days.
The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey estimates there 350,000 problem gamblers in the state.