When children and teenagers play simulated gambling games (featuring either real money or fake money), they are more likely to grow up and gamble with real money. One study found that almost 30% of adolescents who played simulated poker went on to play real poker with real money later in life.
Some companies claim that games can have gambling techniques, with no risk to children, so long as there is no real money involved. However, even if gambling games are ostensibly “free” to play, they pose a risk to young people by making them more susceptible to gambling mechanics, psychological tricks and addiction.
To put it simply, when a young person reaches age 18 and finally enters a casino having previously played social gambling games, they will be more susceptible to real gambling and psychological addiction, because they will be primed for it.
The low classification of gambling games in Australia is out of line with the broader laws on gambling.
In all states, there are strict laws on who can enter a casino and who can gamble, with every state imposing age restrictions roughly correlating with adulthood. If these general laws were imposed on gambling games, they would receive a classification of R (18+) – the highest possible rating – rather than G (for a general audience).
Since 2013, Australia has had an R (18+) category for games. At the time of its introduction, it was argued that the adult rating would empower the classification agency, and stop kids from having access to games that could potentially harm them. It would appear that that has not occurred with regards to gambling games.
Despite recent statements by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation that some video game mechanics can “constitute gambling”, not much has changed regarding the law in Victoria or any other state. Victorian officials state that they can do very little when a gaming company or product is based overseas.
However, it is unclear why the regulator, the Australian Classification Board, cannot put higher ratings on gambling games sold in Australia, in Australian stores or on Australian websites.
The rise of gamification, or the use of games for serious purposes, has led to a variety of games that assist educators, the government and private companies in creating interactive learning experiences.
It is unfortunate that some video gaming companies continue to develop gambling and anti-social video games, when the power of video games as a positive medium for change is just starting to develop.