Australia Could Ban Social Casino Games Over Gambling Harm Concerns
- Australia is debating a decision to ban simulated gambling
- Gambling experts warn simulated games could have the same harmful effects as actual gambling
- Australians are spending millions on social casino games but do not win real money
Simulated casino games have taken center stage in Australia’s ongoing federal parliamentary inquiry into online gambling amid claims such games may increase a person’s risk of experiencing problem gambling.
Some submissions to the inquiry argue that simulated games on mobile phones, tend to normalize gambling for young people, making them prone to gambling-related harm.
Committee Examining Whether to Ban Simulated Games
Online casino gaming is currently banned in Australia under the Interactive Gambling Act. However, there are no specific laws surrounding simulated games, such as loot boxes and social casino games, which have characteristics similar to gambling.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, the committee leading the probe, is now considering whether to amend the country’s existing laws to include gambling-like activities in the ban. Committee Chair Peta Murphy said they are examining the appropriateness of the “gambling service” definition under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. The review could ultimately result in the prohibition of simulated gambling.
According to Sensor Tower, a provider of market intelligence and analytics for the mobile app industry, Lightning Link Casino, a free-to-play pokie simulator developed by global gaming company Aristocrat, has generated more profits than any other game in Australia for at least three years. The game has similar features to the physical machines installed by Aristocrat in clubs and pubs.
Though this type of game does not require any real-money deposits or payments from customers in order to play, they are given the option to top up using actual money to level up their gaming experience, a feature known as “in-app purchases”. However, players cannot withdraw their winnings as they are only awarded in the form of virtual coins or credits which allow them to continue to play and upgrade their game.
Simulated Gambling Linked to Harm
According to app store analyst Data.ai, Australians shelled out $80 million for social casino games in Q2 of 2022 alone. Meanwhile, nearly half of Aristocrat’s total revenue now accounts for games with in-app purchases.
Dr. Rebecca Jenkinson, executive manager of the Australian Gambling Research Centre, has raised concerns over the harmful effects of simulated gambling, especially on teens and young players. She said their research has found that engaging in such activities could lead to harm similar to what is seen with actual gambling.