Federal Budget 2024: The Great Australian Loot Box Crackdown Has Begun

Federal Budget 2024: The Great Australian Loot Box Crackdown Has Begun

The Albanese government has announced a $1 million investment as part of the 2024 Federal Budget to fund education and awareness of its new mandatory minimum classifications for gambling-like content in computer games. The new rules will cover games with simulated gambling and in-game purchases linked to elements of chance, like paid loot boxes, the first step in a wider crackdown on the practice.

According to the press release from Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, the new rules are aimed at “helping parents to make more informed choices” about the games their kids play. The $1 million of funding over two years was announced in yesterday’s 2024 Federal Budget, with the aim to raise awareness for the minimum classifications of games containing gambling-like content. The rules are set to come into effect from September 2024.

Games with in-game purchases like loot boxes which have a chance element (like paid loot boxes) will receive a minimum M classification (not recommended for children under 15), while those with simulated gambling will at minimum be classified as R 18+ (legally restricted to adults aged 18 or over).

The rules were first announced in September 2023 and will only impact the classification of games released after they come into effect. Games released prior will not be retroactively rated. At the time, Minister Rowland said the rules were part of the Albanese Government’s goal to “protect vulnerable Australians from gambling harms – including children who may be exposed to gambling through video games.”

What exactly that clean milly from the 2024 Federal Budget will be used for specifically, whether in terms of raising awareness and education around the new rules, isn’t clear just yet, although we’re likely to see more information in the future. Whether a marketing campaign or outreach to publishers to deter them from including loot boxes and gambling at all is on the cards, this move is part of a wider crackdown on digital gambling in games globally. On local shores, Australia loses more money gambling per capita than any other country in the world by a pretty sobering margin (40% clear of second place Singapore), so it’s clear tackling gambling in all forms is pretty high on the priority list.

While changing the rules to classify titles with gambling-like elements at a higher rating won’t make these kinds of features go away, it will make publishers think twice before including content that could see them slapped with an M or R 18+ rating straight out of the gate. Releasing an otherwise family-friendly game only to have it restricted to adults or, at best, recommended against kids isn’t a particularly sound release strategy after all.

Image: Blizzard Entertainment / Capcom / Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images / Kotaku Australia

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