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]
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