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Social online casinos are a fun way to play casino games without spending real money. There are options to purchase virtual coins and upgrades, but these are optional. Currently, social casinos operate legally in Australia, but that may soon change.
A parliamentary inquiry will soon determine whether these casinos constitute online gambling. It is possible that social casinos could be regulated as online gambling, thus making those casinos illegal in Australia.
It is well-known that online gambling for real money is illegal in Australia. Companies operating in the nation cannot offer online gambling, and the government actively tries to block offshore sites. However, until now, one area of online casino gaming that has been legal is social casino gaming. This is mainly because players cannot play for real money prizes. However, that may soon change.
Parliament is investigating whether social casinos are causing gambling harm and whether they should begin regulating it as online gambling. Labour MP Peta Murphy is chairing the committee that will examine the issue. He states, “Most of us on the committee have had our constituents talk about this sort of simulated gambling either leading to [other forms of] gambling or getting people hooked on that itself – and you are losing money in it.”
The committee will examine social casinos along with developments in other countries pertaining to social casinos. Some countries have ruled that these casinos are a form of gambling. Some countries have gone a step further and even consider video game mechanics, known as loot boxes, as a form of gambling.
Some of you may wonder why Parliament is concerned about free-to-play social casinos. Part of the issue stems from the fact that players can purchase upgrades or in-game items for real money. For example, social pokies apps may allow you to buy in-game currency for use in the games. Other casinos will allow you to purchase upgrades for the game, such as outfits, new skins for the casino, and more.
The difference between social casinos and real money online casinos is that players never have a chance to win real money. All money “won” in the game is play money and can never be cashed out. In essence, if someone spends $100 playing social pokies, they will not recoup a penny. Real money pokies at least give you a chance to recoup the money.
Others are concerned that social casinos groom people, particularly children, to be gamblers in the future. One person that believes this is Lauren Levin, the director of policy and campaign at Financial Counselling Australia. She says, “Gambling financial counsellors are now very concerned about how much money people are losing playing with social casino games and the addictions that are developing.”
Levin also says there is mounting evidence that video games are causing harm comparable to pokies. Again, much of this stems from gambling-like mechanics, such as loot boxes that give players a chance to win a powerful item. These mechanics are in various popular games, including games like Roblox, designed for audiences under 13.
For now, Parliament is merely studying the effects of social casinos on the populace. There have yet to be serious discussions regarding the regulation of said games. However, they will likely be able to find evidence to back their beliefs.
Considering the heightened sensibilities regarding gambling in all forms in Australia, we do not expect this to be a matter that goes away quietly. For now, players will be able to continue enjoying their favorite social casinos. How long that remains a possibility remains is unknown.