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The campaign to eliminate gambling-like products from video games continues. Last week, the Albanese government passed reforms that will restrict video games that offer gambling-style elements, such as loot boxes.
All states passed the measure and will force social casino games to carry an R18+ classification. Other games with simulated gambling elements will have to carry a M rating. This measure is the latest in movements to protect children from gambling-like aspects in video games.
On 22 September, the Standing Council of Attorneys-General met to discuss video game reform. All states voted and agreed on sweeping reforms restricting social casinos and video games that offer gambling-style elements.
Under the new reforms, social casinos must carry an R18+ classification, making them for adults only. Furthermore, video games with gambling-like elements like loot boxes must have a M classification. These games are not recommended for children under 15.
According to the government, the reforms aim to protect children from gambling harm that could be associated with these forms of games. Lawmakers primarily pointed to a study from the Australian Institute of Family Studies that looked at the impact of simulated gambling. It claims that youth exposed to gambling in video games are 40% more likely to gamble as adults.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland spoke on the new reforms, stating, “The Albanese Government is determined to protect vulnerable Australians from gambling harms — including children who may be exposed to gambling through video games.
Research shows that children exposed to gambling-like content may be more vulnerable to gambling harm later in life – and we are determined to intervene early to keep children safe.”
Social casinos and video game companies have until September 2024 to change their rating or to remove gambling-like elements.
In March, reports began to surface on the likelihood of government intervention regarding video games. While the gambling industry claims that only 0.25% of all its users are under 18, other studies suggest that 12 to 25% of all youth play social casino games. Part of this is because some youth lie about their age on social media platforms to gain access.
Then there are video games with gambling-like elements. Loot boxes are the primary feature targeted by regulation. Players can purchase loot boxes that give players a chance to receive special weapons or power-ups. Some of these loot boxes even have simulated-gambling elements like a spinning wheel. They also come with the odds of receiving certain prizes, similar to those in online casino games.
Part of the concern over simulated gambling is that sites require payment to receive play money or loot boxes. This ends up being a financial drain on both youths and families. Players often spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for virtual items with no chance of receiving tangible prizes or cash prizes.
Ultimately, the government believes these elements will lead to youth becoming addicted to gambling as adults. Many parents can attest to the addictive nature of video games, so it is reasonable to assume that gambling-like elements could pose a potential risk.
This is one area where we support the government. Online gambling and even simulated gambling are supposed to be activities for adults. Imposing restrictions on this form of content is akin to enacting responsible gambling practices at online casinos.
It is entirely reasonable for the government to want to protect developing minds by enacting these policies. Once someone reaches 18, they can decide if gambling or simulated gambling is for them. In the meantime, there are many more age-appropriate games that youth can enjoy.