Feb. 19, 2021 – His parents lay the blame squarely on the investing company, pointing out Kearns tried multiple times to get help on a customer service line, to no avail. Kearns’ family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Robinhood. 

At a House Financial Services Committee hearing Thursday, Robinhood’s CEO, Vlad Tenev, said, “The passing of Mr. Kearns was deeply troubling to me and to the entire company, and we have vowed to take a series of steps, very aggressive steps to make our options product safer for our customers.”  Tenev disputed the gamification of Robinhood saying, “We know that investing is serious, and we’re investing in all of the educational tools and customer support to help people on their investing journey.”

But experts in gambling addiction categorically disagree. “Investing whether it’s on the stock market through, you know hedge funds, doing derivatives or whatever, is that this is actually a form of gambling,”  said Mark Griffiths, a behavioral addiction professor at Nottingham Trent University in the U.K.

And investing is beginning to look and sound more and more like gambling and video gaming. For instance, video game Space Shooters gives away free treasures. Sports gambling platform FanDuel offers free bet insurance and Robinhood gives away free stock.

“When I watch, for instance, a video game player and somebody playing a slot machine, behaviorally and psychologically, that they’re acting in almost entirely the same way. The only difference is that the video game players are using points to keep score, whereas gamblers, you know, using the kind of how much they’ve won and lost as a way of keeping score,” Griffiths said.



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