The Greens Call For Stronger Regulations Around Gambling In Video Games

Gambling has become a hot topic in Canberra this week, culminating with the Department of Social Services announcing last night a raft of new measures combating illegal offshore betting.

With gambling increasingly tied to video games the question remained as to how the industry, particularly the growing segment of esports, would be affected. And the federal Greens candidate for La Trobe, Tom Cummings, has suggested that the existing laws need to be addressed.

According to Cummings (pictured left with Greens leader, Senator Di Natale), the current federal legislation — the Interactive Gambling Act (2001) — does not recognise video games like Dota 2, League of Legends or other popular titles as "sport". As a result, they currently fall outside legislative boundaries, but that's something that the Greens candidate believes should change.

"Gambling with virtual items is a grey area in Australian regulation and this would need to be carefully considered, especially with the existing precedent of in-app purchases in mobile games, many of which are gambling games," Cummings told Kotaku Australia.

The former IT professional and former problem gambler is no stranger to the growth of video games, nor esports. "I'm not surprised esports are such big business, I cut my teeth on StarCraft back in the [1990's] and my eldest daughter is a dab hand at League of Legends. So it shouldn't be that surprising that gambling on esports is also growing."

Ahead of the Government's publication of the review into illegal offshore wagering yesterday, The Greens launched a policy that would ban all gambling ads in sporting contests and mainstream advertising (which includes ads on billboards, in stadiums, radio and television).

Cummings said that this policy would not cover video games and third party websites, although "there would soon be a need to address this market".

The current categories of gambling in Australia as far as the Federal Government is concerned

"Where there is significant growth in betting volume, both in terms of the number of bets placed and the value of those bets, as appears to be the case with esports, then I agree that further investigation is warranted. Too often we are left playing catch-up as technology outpaces legislation; if we know that an unregulated market is growing quickly, we should take action sooner rather than later."

Cummings also commented on recent remarks from Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood, Tabcorp's esports betting partner, where the latter suggested that children were betting on esports.

"[Sood's] experience of his 13 year old son and his friends talking about skin betting is similar to my experience of hearing schoolboys discussing football in terms of gambling odds," the Greens candidate said. He added that betting on video games and video game tournaments were not covered in federal or state-based legislation anywhere in Australia.

"Outside of licensed bookmakers, there is nothing stopping teenagers and children from accessing unregulated sites to purchase and bet virtual items on esports. The fact that this scenario exists is further evidence that the existing regulations are inadequate and have not kept pace with technological advances."

"It's evidence of the growing normalisation of gambling for our youth. Our kids are growing up thinking gambling is normal, whether on the footy or on CS:GO, and they're taking those lessons with them into adulthood."

The federal government's review into illegal offshore wagering also did not recommend any extra measures against fantasy sports, console providers or online game developers:

Recommendation 30   Popular social media services, mobile content providers, console providers and online game developers closely monitor the impact of their user policies regarding the provision of online gambling services (both licensed and unlicensed) as well as gambling-style services that are popular with children to ensure the implementation of these policies aligns with Australian laws and community expectations. In particular, these providers should closely monitor gambling-style services to ensure that they are not inappropriately targeting younger children or that they possess simulated payout ratios that differ significantly from actual gambling services as a means of misleading children about their prospects for success with real gambling services.   Recommendation 32   That the treatment of fantasy sports under the IGA be the subject of further consultation with the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS), state and territory governments, and the promoters of fantasy sports competitions.

The report did, however, recommend the closure of legal loopholes allowing in-play betting (betting after an event has begun) through mobile services. In-play betting is currently only permitted online for racing events, if the punter is at an event in person, or speaking to an operator over the phone, but new apps have circumvented this through the use of voice-activation services.

An earlier department review recommended the legalisation of in-play betting, although the committee recommended that any changes to how in-play betting is legislated be deferred.

The Australian Wagering Council were also contacted for comment but did not reply by the time of publication.


Comments

    With gambling increasingly tied to video games

    For the love of life. The games and violence rhetoric didn't fly so now the bleeding hearts are now looking for something else.

      That doesn't really seem like the case to me. With the huge boom in mobile sports betting as well as monetization practices in mobile games that are effectively identical to gambling, this is a real issue. Also, does it really make you a 'bleeding heart' (lol) to want protections around gambling? It costs our society billions of dollars a year, and preys on vulnerable people.

        It's not a bleeding heart to want protection. But for the love of life if the element is in a video game then:
        (1) if the player is under 16 then the parent should educate or actually parent
        (2) if older than 16 the person should own his or her actions for choosing to gamble
        (3) if the player has an impairment and requires care, then then care needs to answer why gambling has been allowed to get out of control.

        We don't need stronger regulations, we need citizens and those in caretaker positions to own their consequences instead of blaming everyone but themselves.

          No, we should definitely have stronger regulations. I think what you say is all well and good if gambling/gaming companies had any sort of societal responsibility, but they don't. A parent buying a mobile game for their child, that is specifically marketed as a game for children, should not have to worry about their child getting sucked in to some monetized skinner box bullshit. Also, libertarianism is a fantasy political system that has no basis in reality.

            Also, libertarianism is a fantasy political system that has no basis in reality.

            I am expressing common sense. At no point did I express the libertarianism you are wrongly trying to describe my post as. If you can't discuss the content and instead have to reach out to like this then keep your comments to yourself.

            My posts are well grounded in reality; don't try to imply otherwise because that kind of rhetorical labelling doesn't work on me.

            A parent buying a mobile game for their child, that is specifically marketed as a game for children, should not have to worry about their child getting sucked in to some monetized skinner box bullshit.

            Wrong again. Access to information is very easy today. There is no excuse to research the game and no excuse to remove credit card information form the gaming device.

            Parents are the parents, not the freaking government and not the freaking regulations.

            Last edited 29/04/16 12:57 pm

              Dude, your name is fucking Wisehacker, clearly you are very fluent with the internet and different digital platforms. Most parents are not. Not to mention things like people for whom english is their second language.

              Parents are the parents, not the freaking government and not the freaking regulations.

              If this isn't libertarianism I don't know what is. And it doesn't make any sense in the context of Australian society. We have built a culture that has flourished from a strong social state and strong societal protections, I don't see why that should go out the window in this case. Especially with the huge potential damage that gambling can cause.

              Last edited 29/04/16 1:10 pm

              @zombiethreepwood

              Dude, your name is fucking Wisehacker, clearly you are very fluent with the internet and different digital platforms. Most parents are not.

              It takes no more intelligence to open a book than it is to open a browser and look at Google. This isn't the early 90s when Burners-Lee made his proposal. The Internet has matured and has become dead easy to use.

              If this isn't libertarianism I don't know what is.

              Your words, not mine. Discussion over.

              Last edited 29/04/16 1:14 pm

                Discussion over? I was enjoying sparring with you! Because for real, here is a definition of libertarianism (wikipedia i know :/) :

                Libertarianism (Latin: liber, "free") is a political philosophy that upholds liberty as its principal objective. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association, and the primacy of individual judgment.

                That is exactly what you are talking about right? These issues have nothing to do with the government, or regulation - they are only affected by the personal responsibly of parents and children.

                  That is exactly what you are talking about right?

                  No and quit trying to make a square peg (me) fit in a smaller round hole (libertarianism). I am not going to participate in and one sided discussion which has devolved into trying to describe my views as something completely unrelated.

                  Nothing I have said even hints at what you are trying associate with. What I express is the common sense that one is a product of his or her own actions and it is sheer bloody laziness to need regulations to make people own the consequences of their actions in a mature manner.

                  Discussion over. You are welcome to continue on in an aimless manner but I will not have another bar of it.

                  lol so salty. And a blanket "no its not" doesn't really refute anything I've said, but cheers for the discussion, it was fun till your last press release there haha

                  Last edited 29/04/16 1:39 pm

      Totally unrelated issues. The fact is, there are few safeguards to prevent underage children from gambling on games and some games are arguably built around that model.

        Totally unrelated issues. The fact is, there are few safeguards to prevent underage children from gambling on games and some games are arguably built around that model.

        They are called parents. We have safeguards enough, the problem is with parents not parenting.

          Why isn't the Government doing more to prevent my bad parenting?? Where is my state funded bath time CCTV system??? I PAY TAXES GODDAMIT!

          I don't know how to engage with this. You've gone off on a massive tangent. Surely you know there is a bunch of legislation banning children from gambling, regardless of what the parent may or may not want to do. Children gambling on the footy or ponies is not a decision parents currently get to make. The problem is that there is a new range of electronic activities that are effectively gambling (i.e. money goes in, money comes out), but the legislation hasn't caught up.

          Yeah, no. Even diligent parenting is not always enough, unless you become one of those psychotic heli-parents and/or ban your children from the net, tv and radio altogether. I dont gamble, ever- yet im always bombed with gambling ads online and then throw in the endless tv n radio ads all doing their best to normalize gambling too. There were betting ads on sat arvo during Yu gi oh FFS. That is a new low, advertising that in a kids cartoon. So even using intelligent and articulate reasons to explain why gambling can be dangerous my kids first question was "how bad can it be if its on tv and online all the time? If it was bad why dont they ban the ads?" My kid has a point, i reckon they should. I then had to explain how very invested our govt is in gambling, hence the ads. Tricky tedious stuff to explain to a kid. And when they become teens good luck getting em to listen til they fuck up. Yeah a bit of official help wouldnt hurt.

    Again I urge Kotaku Australia to once in a while cover some of the larger sports in this country with the verve it does UFC or WWE, in football circles the 'image' of the sport (no matter the code or shape of the football) is paramount with mums and dads.

    The pervasive way gambling odds litter the telecasts of prime-time sports is a battle being fought at the same time, you need only highlight it.

    Or, how about something along the lines of sporting clubs phasing out pokie machines? I hear anecdotally this is happening but it's great to hear there's a public groundswell against problem gambling.

    “It’s evidence of the growing normalisation of gambling for our youth. Our kids are growing up thinking gambling is normal, whether on the footy or on CS:GO, and they’re taking those lessons with them into adulthood.”I didn't know it was supposed to be not normal. I mean the TV's absolutely covered in ads for gambling sites and such, why wouldn't they think it's normal?

      Gambling is pretty normal for Australian society, it's kind of bizarre to me. I grew up in Canada and moved to Australia when I was 20 and, while gambling is legal over there, it's much more taboo, and it's not something you normally speak about. There was a pretty huge government campaign about it in the 90s when I was growing up but I don't know how much that really influenced things. Might just be the culture is different.

    The Greens Call For Stronger Regulations Around... *insert trend of the month here*

      That's the Greens all over. No ideas and frequently jumping on other people's soap boxes.

        That's not the Greens, that's every political party ever.

    I hate the term "vulnerable people"

    Adults have a responsibility to take care of themselves, unless they are mentally ill or intellectually disabled, then its not up to anyone else but THEMSELVES to control their behaviour. None of this waaah waah dem games made me do it, I can't control myself! No one makes you gamble in excess, drink, use drugs or hurt others. You and only you are in control. I learnt this simple concept during my first year of school. The teacher had it written on the blackboard - "cool off, think and then act".

    There is no excuse.

    It isn't up to the rest of us to babysit your kids either - be a parent and take note of classification labels. Pure and simple. Stuff the Greens and anyone else who thinks self control doesn't exist.

      Except there's decades of psychological research laying out the techniques that gambling organisations (and advertisers, etc etc) deploy to influence or even manipulate people into making decisions against their best interests.

    “Gambling with virtual items is a grey area in Australian regulation and this would need to be carefully considered, especially with the existing precedent of in-app purchases in mobile games, many of which are gambling games,” Cummings told Kotaku Australia.
    The former IT professional and former problem gambler is no stranger to the growth of video games, nor esports. “I’m not surprised esports are such big business, I cut my teeth on StarCraft back in the [1990’s] and my eldest daughter is a dab hand at League of Legends. So it shouldn’t be that surprising that gambling on esports is also growing.”
    These two paragraphs point to completely seperate issues, but are strung together in the article as if they're the same thing... Betting in games and betting on games are fundamentally different.

    The latter could be addressed by legislation that recognises eSports as sports and as such brings the gambling laws in line. Seems like a simple concept that will take legislators years to comprehend, which is nothing new.

    The former is a really interesting one. How would you and when should you regulate betting in games... Only when there's a real world cash out? Only when there's real cash in via in-app purchase? (Does buying blind packs of cards in hearthstone count?) Only when it resembles real-world gambling (Sorry Team Rocket, you can't have pokies in your Game Corner)? It's a tricky one.

    Last edited 29/04/16 1:08 pm

      I'm probably going to get flack for this, but as a psychologist, I'd actually extend it to games of chance. Meaning if the kid has to put in money for a random item (i.e. loot drop), I'd probably ban it. It's not a parental supervision issue (a good parent would presumably limit the losses), it's that its straight up exploitative because kids don't know any better.

        Exactly. This emphasis on personal responsibility is really frustrating in the context of children, or really anyone who isn't as well educated about these issues as commenters on one of the more popular gaming websites.

          It wouldn't exactly be unprecedented - we've ban children from almost every other form of gambling. I guess some people might argue that it's not gambling, but I'd point out that actually, a lot of games with microtransactions are using the same random-interval conditioning that poker machines employ. From a cognitive psychology point of view they are indistinguishable.

            Couldn't agree more, and great to hear from someone who has a academic background in these issues

        But would it have to be real world money put in for said random item? What if you can only play this game of chance with in-game currency that is earned through another form of play, does that count? And how does it change things if that in-game currency can be topped up via real world money?

        I honestly don't have the answers, but these questions (and some grey areas in between) would need to have definitive answers for any form of legislation.

          I think once real world money enters the system, it's effectively gambling. If they set thresholds, it'll be exploited much like the poker machine return ratios have been. Obviously this would kill a good chunk of free-to-play games (oh noes, the humanity).

      Regulating esports in the same way as other sports with respect to gambling would also do things like extend protections against match fixing or manipulation to people betting on them.

    As far as I'm concerned, the only loophole that I'm aware of that particularly needs fixing is the notion of re-wording gambling as 'playing". When people put money into a 'game' and then 'play' with it to potentially win more tokens.
    Basically what this means is it is gambling, but the company doesn't need to register, or pay the taxes that a gambling company does. In short they get out of all that annoying regulatory stuff. :P
    This is what needs to be stopped.

    Depends what you considering gambling. Skill testers (crane machines) are basically gambling but they're allowed in shopping centres for kids to play.

    Twitch needs to ban gambling streams. Even if that means removing poker or only allowing those kinds of regulated events with special authorisation. Something needs to be done to stop your average streamer advertising these websites!

    I see people like m0E_tv getting tens of thousands of dollars in site affiliate partnerships or donations inviting him to gamble and it saddens me... He does very well and I love him as a streamer, but so many of his viewers don't understand that his net success isn't from just getting lucky or being good at gambling. Streamers only come out on top because they're given the finances to make it looks like that. Normal people on average can not make profit... Kids don't understand all this. :,(

    Much more awareness is needed right now.

    If any legislation on this matter is to be pushed, it needs to come from an intelligent, unbiased, credible entity, not the Greens.

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