June 22, 2024

Dave & Buster’s plans to add a feature to its app that will allow customers to place bets amongst themselves on competitive games, according to an announcement from the entertainment chain on Tuesday. It’s just the latest sign that tech-based gambling is becoming normalized in the U.S. at an unprecedented rate, seemingly without regard for the long-term consequences.

Dave & Buster’s, which bills itself as the largest operator of entertainment centers in the world, is working on the betting features for the app with Lucra, a gamification software company founded in 2019.

“The new strategic partnership integrates Lucra’s proprietary gamification software into the Dave & Buster’s app, allowing loyalty members to digitally compete with each other, earn rewards, and unlock exclusive perks while competing with friends at Dave & Buster’s—bringing together the sports arena and the arcade for an unparalleled, gamified experience,” Lucra said in a press release posted online Tuesday.

Lucra’s goal is to provide a “safe and trustworthy experience” where users can bet with friends “inside a platform or place they already know and love.” The company says it wants to “destigmatize cash-based competition by evolving it into a fun, friendly, and social experience.”

Why add betting to the Dave & Buster’s app? Obviously, it’s a way to make money by incentivizing new behaviors, but the addition of gambling can also drive new traffic, and “keep customers longer inside your ecosystem,” according to Lucra’s press release. And nobody understands that last part better than the gambling industry, which has spent decades figuring out how to keep the money flowing.

Roughly 2.5 million Americans qualify as having a severe gambling addiction, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, while 5-8 million more have mild or moderate gambling problems. And the recent legalization of sports betting in the U.S. isn’t helping, allowing users to bet all day and night from their phones.

As CNBC notes, Lucra doesn’t use the terms “bet” or “wager” in its marketing materials, opting for terminology like “real-money contests or challenges.” That’s because skills-based games aren’t subject to the same kind of regulations as games of chance, despite the fact that most Americans would use the words “bet” and “wager” to describe what they will be doing in the Dave & Buster’s app.

“We’re thrilled to work with Lucra to bring this exciting new gaming platform to our customers,” Simon Murray, senior vice president of entertainment and attractions at Dave and Buster’s, said in a press release. “This new partnership gives our loyalty members real-time, unrivaled gaming experiences, and reinforces our commitment to continuing to elevate our customer experience through innovative, cutting-edge technology.”

The new app features will only be available to customers 18 and over in 44 states. Dave & Buster’s didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions on Tuesday about what kind of safeguards might be in place to ensure children can’t make bets in the app.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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