South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon Seeks To Legislate Video Game Gambling

Image: Valve

The legal and ethical implications of CS: GO's unauthorised gambling culture came to a head recently, with several prominent YouTube personalities caught in the fallout. If you thought the drama was online only, think again, with one Australian senator keen to legislate gambling and video games.

Speaking with Fairfax's Catherine Armitage, South Australian senator and independent Nick Xenophon has revealed he will approach parliament next month with the intention of classifying "video games as gambling":

"This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids," Senator Xenophon said. The "insidious" games played by hundreds of thousands of Australian teenagers "purport to be one thing" but are "morphing into full-on gambling and that itself is incredibly misleading and deceptive", he said.

Unfortunately, scant details are available in the article as to the specifics of the legislation and at the time of writing, there's no mention of it on senator Xenophon's own site either. Until we have more information, it's difficult to determine the extent of the changes Xenophon is after.

However, the Fairfax story does feature a comparison to Japan's laws regarding games and gambling:

Legislation could make it illegal for games to seek payment for items of varying value according to chance, as is the case in Japan. There could be minimum age requirements on paying to play, and games could be required to carry clear warnings of gambling content.

A segment by the Today Show is also vague, providing more questions than answers.

As expected, the tweet accompanying the video is just terrible.

Valve has already taken action against a great many gambling sites, though these are specific to the developer's own title, CS: GO. Truth be told, there is no governing body or organisation to monitor this kind of activity, so it was only a matter of time before politicians and governments had a crack themselves.

Depending on how the legislation is worded, a massive number of mobile games with in-app purchases could be classified as illegal. Right now, we need details before we can figure out the real-world ramifications.

Nick Xenophon calls for curbs on teen gambling in eSports video games [SMH]


Comments

    Premature. Valve has just demonstrated it's ready, willing and able to self-regulate; give the wider esports scene a chance to get some wheels in motion, instead of wasting tax dollars on it.

    Disclosure: I help run live events for the local competitive fighting games scene.

    Last edited 31/07/16 1:41 pm

      I think league of legends betting has gone relatively wild and is very unregulated.

      I think gambling laws should be consistent and consistently enforced. Not really something that I consider a waste of taxpayer money. In Australia many forms of gambling are legal, just not for minors. Why shouldn't the same laws be applied to gambling on/in video games?

        How many lollies in the jar? Or that thing where the fish float around in a brightly decorated tank in sideshow alley and you catch them with a magnet on a string. Where do you stop? Are the turning clown heads with the ping pong balls trainer pokie machines? It needs regulation, but we gotta be careful it doesnt go too far.

        Last edited 31/07/16 7:50 pm

          All your examples are games of skill, not chance. You can use your noggin to figure out the volume and average dimensions of the lollies, and you can use hand-eye co-ordination for the other two.

            Yeh, but I mean, have u ever gotten one of the balls in? Also, what about csgo 1v1 betting? that is skill... more skill than throwing a ball into a clown mouth.

            Skill testers would have been a better example. They no longer call them "Skill testers" 'cause there is no real skill involved. They operate on the same premise as Poker machines. They have a random chance of winning but will only pay out when enough money has been put in. Under full gambling legislation they would be illegal because it's unregulated gambling and gambling available to minors.

              I do not believe you that all 'skill testers' are rigged to only pay out when they have enough money put in.
              That would be very illegal.

              And Skill Testers are still a thing in every state and territory I've been, usually the caveat is they can't have cash prizes.

                They're rigged to a degree. Basically if the prize in the machine is worth Y amount then the machine on average will work after X x Y has been inserted. So if the toy is worth $5 then the machine will work after $20 has been inserted. It's not exact, it's randomised on an average basis. The same way poker machines work. They'll pay out randomly but they'll never pay out more than is put in on average.

                The way it works with skill testers is that the claw doesn't have the strength to pick up the item, or it will pick it up then lose strength so it drops it. When you hit a "win" game then the claw operates on full strength and will have the strength to pick up and hold the item.

                This concept isn't illegal but it isn't heavily regulated in Australia. I believe Kotaku did a story on it a while back.

      Not premature considering the enmasse legal action directed at Valve... and Valve only responds to legal pressure.

      There is a difference to esports versus loot box/skin gambling... and Valve was ignoring it for years dispite repeated calls for valve to ban it.

      Dont confuse the playing of sports to the spectators who risk mobetary value on the outcome.

    Lol, he wants to ban all mobile phone freemium games from the sound of it.

      well a lot of them are pretty bad....

    Maybe he should be more concerned about the promotion of gambling in televised sport. I'd wager more kids are exposed to gambling that way than through playing games.

      The difference being is that even though the kids see the adverts, the kids themselves can't gamble at a TAB.

        I can't remember the last time I've even seen a TAB ad... Banners in the sportsground, sure, but all the ads they show on TV five times every ad break are for online gambling services which don't require any ID verification, meaning anyone can sign up.

        True, although there's been a pretty big proliferation of mobile apps for most gambling places recently. I haven't downloaded any of them myself but I imagine it's pretty easy to bypass any age restrictions that might be in place if you're so inclined.

      Nick Xenophon is famously tough on gambling of all kinds, I'm sure he would be, and is, very concerned about that as well, but I think the point here is that kids don't know it's actually a form of gambling and are able to engage with it themselves. I totally agree with him on this too; the people that seem to be most affected by the lure of fancy in-game items tend to be the youngest and, arguments that kids shouldn't be playing most of these games anyway aside, a lot of them do engage with it.

    Obviously referring to mobile games and their IAP.

    In which case, good on him.

    How on earth coukd anyone think he's referring to actual gambling, like the CS:GO thing? lol

      No. This article is just poorly written.

      Xenophon explicitly mentioned CS:GO and Dota (the 2 biggest offenders).

    Gambling aside, who gives their kids their credit cards?

    If my kids used my credit card, they'd be on a one way trip to the euthanasia foot up the arse clinic.

    Must be that time of the year again when the polly that gets the short straw has to try and demonise games and wind up getting egg on his face.

    I even hear him on the radio saying Japan has been successful.

    He needs to see Gaijin Gombah's video then on the pachinko machines; one's "winnings" are in the form of random items like chocolate, etc, which are exchanged for yen in office next door.

    I'm no lawyer but I think it safe to say the same logic can be applied on game based gambling.

    Last edited 31/07/16 3:04 pm

      Japan is full of examples of people obeying the letter of the law while completely disregarding the spirit of it. It's just kind of A Thing.

        Pretty sure that Australia also did the whole "games of chance that reward non-monetary tokens that can be conveniantly exchanged for cash in the totally unrelated neighbouring premesis" thing before legalized pokies became commonplace.

          Yeah I think you're right. At some point Western cultures kind of decided that the idea behind the law was more important than following it to the letter. Technically, it's illegal to record something from the TV, but the idea behind the law is to stop piracy. So it isn't enforced.

      Right, but I thought minors aren't allowed into pachinko parlours? All the ones I remember seeing over there gave off a definite vibe of the back room of the RSL full of pokies, cigarette smoke and booze.

        Right, but I thought minors aren't allowed into pachinko parlours?

        Most likely because the parents step in and actually parent the kids. This is what frustrates me, we don't need extra litigation.

        We need parents to actually parent and own the consequences of their actions. If a parent hands his or her child a iPad (or whatever) that parent should make sure the credit card info is removed or signed out of the iTunes store and the wifi/4G connectivity disabled.

        If said parent is too lazy to even do that then no amount of extra litigation from the government will change anything.

          I'm sorry but I highly disagree there. What you need is an all points effort from all sides. Throwing everything back on one party solely is blameshifting. What you need is regulation from all sides and responsibility. It's simple, and to be frank, a copout to say 'parents parent parents', the fact is children *are* sneaky and do sneaky shit. That's not to admonish parents from any responsibility, but there will absolutely be times parents do their 100% utmost best but kids get around this anyhow, they're kids. This is where the responsibility of *any* gambling establishment comes in to ensure minors are not partaking. This is how society works and how it should be treated. To simply say 'oh the buck stops with the parent' is as blind and quite frankly as ludicrous as the idea that the only responsibility is on the websites.

          Children now, are what we call 'digital natives', they grow up with this tech, it's not like us who learnt it, this shit is embedded in their day to day life. They know workarounds, it's in their social circles, I see it day to day in schools. As far as credit cards go, passwords can protect that, Apple is gracious enough to refund purchases made by kids and as far as disabling the wifi/4g, that's merely a press of a button that can be overridden by kids even by accident.

          When everyone steps up to the plate and says 'lets solve this shit *together*' instead of standing around and blameshifting, something will happen, but while all this bullshit goes on, nothing will be done.

            Before I go further, let me say something if I may. You don't have to apologise for disagreeing.

            You have disagreeded in the right manner and provided a counter point. All too often when I make a point the user that disagrees with me takes it very personally and makes aggressive, vitriolic attacks at me personally.

            With that in mind, thanks for keeping to the (ever dying) art of conversation and discussion.

            My digression aside.

            Yes, I know there needs to be effort on all sides. But the side I illustrated is notorious for not contributing.

            See case in point, the R18+ rating. Yes I know the version we got is still a watered down joke but please hear me out.

            One of the main motivations was to inform consumers and so our ratings were consistent; R18+ games actually do get rated as such instead of being shoehorned into the MA15+ bracket with piecemeal modifications to keep the classification board happy.

            In theory that sounds right but other problems still remained; the main one being parents still getting such mature games for their underage kids.

            Remember that review someone at JB HiFi for GTA reading "It's not for kids. It's not for kid...."? That wasn't entirely a joke.

            Despite there being an R18+ rating (despite its weakness) there are still parents that out right ignore it and keep getting CoD and GTA for their children.

            This is why I see new measures failing; they are only as good as all sides making an effort and the most important side (the parents) is always let down by the few that think everyone else should do the parenting for them (game makers, animators, the government, their cheese sandwitch, etc.).

            Kids will find work arounds but that only means parents need to be engaged with their children rather than let problems escalate by not being pro-active.

            Kids maybe digital natives but the old measure that my mother uses (the almighty power cord to the unit or router) still works.

            Last edited 01/08/16 12:06 pm

    Two of the current Top 10 highest grossing apps on the iTunes App Store are pokies apps. Given Xenophon's stance on pokies, surely that's what he's referring to.

    After checking some of the links, Xenophon references CSGO and some other games specifically. Im very surprised Kotaku. This is an extremely alarmist article that seems very poorly written. Though I didnt vote for the guy he doesnt exactly seem ill informed here and actually seems to be looking at something worthwhile.

    So are we talking only about regulating gambling on esports or are we talking about removing any in-game purchases in which you are randomly given an item from a set of items, each of which may have a different value. I mean, the second one is gambling of a sort (particularly if you're trying to make a profit), but it's also exactly the same as buying a booster pack for a trading card game. Should we be banning Magic for underage players?

    The problem is that Xenophon is notoriously anti-gaming, so rather than just expand the legislation to cover a growing entertainment medium, it's more likely to be drafted in a way that just bans it all together. @saltminer (above) is right, the industry should at least have the opportunity to show it can self-regulate under a recognised scheme much like telecoms (TIO) or banks (FSO) do.

    For all our discussion, the Bill will ultimately pass. There's not enough 'pro' votes to hold it up in either house, and there's not enough lobbyist money being spent on this relatively niche activity to cause a stir. Perhaps Mums For Candy Crush might get a spot on A Current Affair for three minutes, but it'll pass, comfortably.

    This sort of thing IS needed. The real question is who will put it together. I think, instead of a single polly putting legislation together, it should be investigated and so on, so there can be proper recommendations done. But Xen saying stuff like this will just push it forwarded. The best thing for us to do now, is to write to him, and explain where we think it needs to go, what he has wrong in his initial statement and so on. That's how this needs to proceed. Laws are needed. Gambling is gambling. Technically, Borderlands 2 should be R18, as there are casino style poke things in it, but some how that got though the cracks.

    This is not something to complain about. This is something to be improved. For once, we have a polly who is doing something that could be good for the industry, so if we don't actually pitch in, and say our 2c to him, then where not doing our duty as votes and citizens.

    As long as it just restricts games that have gambling with real money to 18+ I'm ok with this. The second a game, any game, is banned I'm against it.

      That's all they're apparently trying to do, so the internet pulling their usual crap of going from Zero to Outrage is pretty stupid when you realise they're in effect arguiing children should be exposed to gambling...

    Thi is a real scummy and problematic area for Video Games. This appears to be directly related to similar court actions against Valve and other CS:GO gambling websites in the US.

    The problem is, so long as these game developers remain addicted to the random reward micro transaction model, full blow gambling will follow suite. Even now, with the way a lot of these transactions work, not just in CS:GO, but also a lot of other MMOs and online games, it is akin to gambling. You're buying a chance to win something, the only saving grace here is that you're guaranteed to win something (unfortunately the value of that item can be very small, at times). They need to get rid of this model, to start cleaning up the gambling problems. If you want a sweet gun or something, they should be sold for a set price, not a random chance. Once you clean that aspect up, it removes the resale value of these items, making their use as currency much less attractive.

    Australia's state gambling laws make CSGO lotteries illegal... the problem is with the state governments never caught up to thos or didnt recognise it when they loosen the competition laws to allow amateur and private sporting events to have prizes.

    Report the CSGO lottery sites to your states gambling authority, also name Valve for allowing its API to bresk Australian law for so many years.

    Years ago Australians couldnt even compete in Blizzard's Worl of Warcraft Arena competitions cause QLD NSW and VIC laws automatically considered any computer game for monetary reward as gambling until they seek permission / permit.

    I dont know why the law was relaxed, and grateful it was for espoets sake... but it got relaxed too much if it allows virtual item lotteries/gambling or shady businesses in Gold Coast too disappear to avoid paying competition prizes.

    This worries me. If I saw the news report correctly yesterday at they Gym, Xylophone was stating that we should adopt 'the Japanese' model whereby when a gambling culture pops up around a game then the game itself becomes banned.

    This seems like a ridiculous solution. Punish the developer of a game by removing access when third parties are the ones causing a completely separate problem.

      Yeah, stopping Japanese gambling online... ha... thats the only place they can besides Pachinko (where you buy the balls and then trade them in for stuff for items with monetary value)... seriously you can actually make a career gambling in video game arcades in Japan :P

      At least he didnt mention the South Korean match fixing scandals :P

      That said CSGO fiasco should of been stopped by the state government gambling laws years ago, they have dropped the ball, but I hope they dont punish gamers and esports unfairly for con artists exploiting a system.

    Stop kids playing certain games? Well.. That's what the R label is for... You can't legally sell an R-Rated game to a minor...

    HOWEVER, if a parent lets their kids play R-Rated games... that's none of your business, senator.

    As for online and video game gambling.... If I'm allowed to go gamble at a casino, or at Lotterywest... I should be allowed to gamble in games...

    Not sure how much enforcing you can do here though...

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