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“Virtual Currency” Sportsbooks are Priming Youth to Gamble

Published: July 1, 2024

Many games targeted toward youth are available on the app store with just the click of a button. While some can be educational and beneficial for youth, many contain mature content designed to entice them to the app, regardless of the risks they pose. 

One of the apps quickly gaining popularity among youth is Fliff, which is regularly ranked high in app stores. It is considered a virtual currency sportsbook, meaning users use fake digital currency to place sports bets. These apps go by many names, including “social gaming,” “social casinos,” and “social sportsbooks.” 

Since these apps don’t require real money, they aren’t officially considered a sports betting app. Sports betting apps undergo intense federal and state regulations to be approved. As a result, restrictions surrounding apps like Fliff tend to be laxer. While it has an 18 and up rating, no ID or age verification is required, meaning many youths can download the app. It is even marketed in some areas in the US as “suitable for ages 13 and up.” 

These social gaming apps encourage users to participate by “playing for fun,” which includes claiming coins to play in social sports games, or “playing for free,” where you collect free social money and play promotional games to win real prizes. While neither of these involves wagering real money, they encourage similar decision-making and behaviors, which can put youth at increased risk of a potential problem with gambling later in life. 

“The people who have gambling problems, who are vulnerable to gambling problems and especially youth, can develop gambling problems based on usage of these apps,” Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told the Washington Post recently

With this information in hand, how can you ensure your child doesn’t engage with apps like this? 

  • Have the conversation. Sit down with the child in your life and talk to them about the risks of participating in gambling-like behaviors, even if there’s no real money involved. Engaging them in this way can ensure your child feels empowered to make good decisions rather than feeling like their parent or caregiver is controlling their behavior. 
  • Set up parental blocks on their phone. You can set up parental controls on both the Apple and Android app stores to ensure your child can’t access gambling apps. You can block the app store in general, which means your child cannot download any apps, or you can choose to block particular apps you find troubling. Check out this watchlist of gambling-like apps you can block. 
  • Check in regularly. After having the initial conversation and blocking any or all apps, check in with the child in your life every few months. Use our parent guide for talking points to help guide the conversation. Remember: the more you engage your child non-judgmentally, the more they will feel like they can be part of the solution. 

Looking for more on youth gambling? offers many helpful resources for parents and educators to learn more and start the conversation. If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to call the Problem Gambling Helpline. Trained and understanding specialists are available 24/7 to take your call, with no strings attached. Call 1-800-589-9966 or text 4HOPE to 741741.

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