There is growing concern that some online games can make gambling more familiar and 'normal' for young people.
Gambling involves the risk of losing something of value (in most cases money) for the chance of winning a prize (of monetary or some other value). This opportunity to stake, win and lose real money is what differentiates gambling from online gaming. While there are many types of online games, when gambling elements exist within a game the distinction between gaming and gambling is not always clear.
Some online games include activities and features that are normally associated with gambling—like ‘loot’ boxes, ‘bundles’, ‘crates’ and ‘cases’ that provide a random chance to win virtual items, which can include an in-game currency.
Many games operate on a ‘freemium’ model. Your child can access the basic game for free, but might need to purchase credits, keys or in-game items for additional content or to access special features, including the chance to win items in a loot box or crate. These items can also be acquired randomly, as a reward through gameplay, or exchanged between players.
In-game items can include an in-game currency, equipment, tools, weapons or ‘skins’. Skins are used in some of the most popular games to cosmetically alter a player’s weapon, equipment or avatar and can vary in their value depending on how rare and popular they are.
While these items can’t be exchanged for real money within the game, there are third party websites—which are generally not approved by the video game industry—that advertise and offer users the opportunity to gamble these items and convert them to cash. This could potentially be an incentive for young people to spend more on in-game items in the hope of cashing in the rare and popular items at a profit.
Games that simulate a gambling activity are easily accessible through mobile apps and social media sites and can expose your child to a realistic gambling experience at a very young age.
Research into the impacts on young people of gambling-like elements in games and simulated gambling is in its early stages. However, a recent study suggests that for some children, playing social casino games leads to an increase in gambling activity, possibly because these games normalise gambling for them or inflate their confidence of winning in a real gambling scenario. While for other children, it can act as a substitute, reducing their interest in real gambling.
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation lists the following possible signs of problem gambling (associated with online games or otherwise):
What else can I do?
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) takes complaints about certain types of interactive gambling services: