Aussie Senator To Close Gambling App Loophole

Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, persistent anti-gambling campaigner, has announced he will introduce legislation to close a loophole allowing gambling apps to escape classification, which could have future ramifications for gaming.

Slot machine app Slotomania allows players to buy virtual coins which they can then gamble away in a manner identical to the pokies room in your local pub. The catch is that players can never extract money from the app - which doesn't technically qualify as gambling under our law, and is thus safe for children to play - and despite this inability to collect your winnings, Xenophon's office has tracked it as Australia's biggest selling app.

A gambling expert from the same camp, Dr Charles Livingstone, has weighed in, saying the app is "habituating them to electronic gambling, particularly pokie machines."

The legislation, while not directly targeting games, could eventually lead in that direction. Apps blur the lines between outright gambling and media, including games. With the R18+ topic reaching a peak in the last few months, the issue of apps has been brought into the discussion. Apps, and indeed all downloadable games, are not subject to classification. Even if we could enforce markets like iTunes to incorporate our classification system, there's no way we could actually classify them all with our current resources. But Xenophon's voice is a reminder that these issues are still on the minds on legislators.

We all know that games have long used the psychological tricks of the gambling trade, from the strategically scheduled reward systems, to the steadily increasing aural tones, to the largely proportioned heads to appeal to maternal instincts. For a long time, RPGs were the main culprit, but now it's hard to find a genre that doesn't make use of these systems.

But the intersection of these forms of media is even less cryptic. One doesn't have to take very large steps to link Slotomania with the likes of Fable 2 Pub Games - a very literal comparison of playing casino style games with virtual gold on the line. If buying in-game coins (without the need to extract them as money again), and throwing those coins at a series of randomised mini-games becomes "proper" gambling, all of a sudden many games are viable targets, if not under the spotlight. Yet.

Move to close online gambling loophole [Nick Xenophon]

Image credit: Wikipedia


    i think the key differentiator between pub games and the ones Nick X has mentioned is that in pub games you cannot spend real money to get more play time, you just get it.

    The other games and the ones most under threat would be those which restrict play time per day without IAPs.

    I had no idea these were supported by in application purchases until I read about it in the SMH. I can't believe it's gone unnoticed for this long, it's been number 1 in google Play for a year or so.

    I'm as disgusted by the app as I am by the ineptitude of the regulators for having missed it. I mean it's Xenophon's THING!

    I remember there were slot machines in the casino in Pokemon sapphire which I played heaps when I was little and I didn't end up with a gambling problem

      you also didn't have the option to put real $$ into those.

      THis one asks for real cash to play...

      THe pokemon one used in game cash you got by beating other people into submission to hand over badges and money for winning....

      So yeah totally different :)

      It also had pokemon on the rolls not random themes like todays one... :)

      Those slots are a part of why games like Pokemon get rated PG rather than G half the time (depending on whether the specific game has minigames with obvious gambling).

    I am on Xenphon's side when it comes to pokies, they should be banned and removed, but whats sad is that all the psycological tricks and tactics into getting people hooked on pokies have been pushed into ftp mobile and "social" games spearheaded initally by Zynga now used by many who lack any sort of ethnically responsiblity to society.

    I say the only solution would be to enforce apple and google + other app store providers to have gambling apps go though a much tougher regulation, classification and age verficiation and warnings. Allthough the best solution would be to make them have a upfront cost of say 5-10 dollars, it will knock out majority of kids getting into such games.

      I am on Xenphon's side when it comes to pokies, they should be banned and removed

      God forbid Australians had choices. People like you are out there supporting the government take them away, cigarettes soon, fatty foods next and then alcohol.... you just watch.

        not going to happen because everybody saw what happened when america tried to ban alcohol plus banning both smokes and alcohol means the government looses alot in taxes. If you cant get rid of something, tax the fucking shit out of it

        GOOD. You don't need cigarettes, fatty foods or alcohol to live a healthy, productive life. Society would probably be much better off without them, but it'll never happen.

          But whose standard? Your standard? How is it good to violent force others what they choose to do by free will?

          How are you any different from the people who want to ban video games?

            Show me one person that died from video games.

            It's not about a 'standard' no one NEEDS to gamble, or smoke cigarettes or eat unhealthy food, it's about people not being able to control themselves and in turn hurting themselves and those around them.

              The government has no rights to tell me what I can and can't eat, drink or smoke, I am not hurting anyone else by doing it, it's people like you that have turned us into a nanny state, so complacent that our rights are being taken away just because you don't agree with something. You are one of the reasons Australia is being ruined. Some people do NEED to eat, gamble and drink, and you know why? because life isn't there to be taken seriously 24/7, life is short and you should be able to have some fun while you are alive, but people like you want to stop that.

              Get off your high horse and grow up.

                "Some people do NEED to eat, gamble and drink"


                  You are just a troll, you took what I said out of context. You seem like you have little education considering you have little to no arguing skills. I hope you enjoy being in the moral brigade, because you are ruining the country.

                  As it's not letting me reply to your comment, chestbrah i'll post it here.

                  I didn't aim take your statement 'out of context', i simply quoted it to point out how absurd it sounded, it didn't help that your 'context' didn't make sense or have any logical rationale to back it up, you have only your self to blame for that. You are arguing that people NEED poker machines as they would air or water and I think that is ridiculous, no one NEEDS them. The only people that get anything out of poker machines are the people that own them and collect all the money that the misguided fools pump into it. The fact is all that money that people are so desperately keen to LOSE could be much better spent helping themselves, their family or their community and generally making the world a better place, same goes for all the money spent on tobacco etc.

                  The fact that you are attacking me personally bears mention too, because we all know that the best way to argue your point in hopes of convincing the other party to rethink their point of view is to call them dumb, or lump them in with extremists who have little in common (NAZI! COMMUNIST! TROLL!) with their projected opinion so as to tarnish their image in a foolish attempt to derail the argument and somehow appear to come out on top by default.

                  So congratulations, you won the internet! Jackpot!

              Have we not heard many stories on Kotaku of parents who game and leave their babies to die? or in china where people have died from over gaming? Or even kids/adults who prefer to game/tv/internet then to go outside, resulting in bad health.

              No one needs video games either! but that doesn't mean we should ban them.

              Why do you deem people so little? Don't they deserve to do the things they like? Don't they deserve the freedom to choose? if your not responsible for yourself, then who is?

              Surely a person who chooses to drink/gamble is more right then someone who would only violent force them to stop.

    How many times a day do you reckon the gambling expert gets asked "Dr Livingstone I presume?"?

    From what they said about this app, you can buy money but cant cash it out?

    Im sorry but whats the goal of this app and who would be silly enough to spend money on it with no reward :/

      Yes, seems every silly indeed

      People with addictive personalities I presume.

    What about games like mass effect and blacklight, other games where you put money in to gamble on random boxes to see what prize you get? I wonder how this will effect them if at all

      Agree. Several Free-To-Play MMO's have this 'lockbox' mechanic built in. You receive a lockbox through regular questing as a 'random' item drop but to open it you need to purchase a key with real cash. Once you open it, it's essentially a random roll for a choice of reward. Essentially gambling.

      That, in-app purchases for slot machine games, and all the bloody centre bet, TAB, odds with betting details that come up on the footy show - seriously should be gone in my opinion. I'm ok with people having choices - but don't bombard people with it and make it out to be something socially acceptable and common place because that's what companies are advocating with all the advertising and accessibility.

      Impressionable kids get into the habit of spending real money on a gambling app with zero chance of winning (i.e. a cash withdrawal) so when they're of age and walk into the casino, I imagine they'd be thrilled with the idea of putting cash in with an actual chance to win. It's a slippery slope for those easily influenced and drawn to the dazzle of winning.

        Those lock boxes seem a bit closer to the case of booster packs for collectable card games: there is an element of chance in what you'll receive, but you will always receive something.

        I'm not sure that is quite as bad as other forms of gambling: for one thing, you can't directly put the proceeds of one play into the next.

        Where do kids get the money from?

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