The Outback: Simulated Gambling in Australia

Simulated Gambling is taking many states and locales by storm, with major game-makers releasing gambling-themed games for their systems. Although these games are especially exciting to play because of the simulated risk inherent in their design, it is important for parents to be aware of some of the risks involved in the development of their child. To this end, the Australian government has just recently passed the Gambling Reform Act of 2013; to encourage responsibility as pertains to simulated gambling by children playing games online. This new edict, which falls under the South Australian government’s Children, Technology and Gambling policy, intends to police the slew of new games that are now easily accessible through social network sites like Facebook and others. Far from banning such games, this measure only seeks to function as a sort of watchdog group, where both professional and public oversight helps policy-makers assess games and applications where simulated gambling has a strong presence, to make sure that underage children aren’t being introduced too early via superficially innocuous games. The Classification Council of South Australia will then publish these flagged games with recommendations in a public forum. In fact, the effects of the Bill are wide-ranging and represent an overhaul of the way things were done previously. For example, the presence of simulated gambling in a game at all is a significant factor in the Classification Council’s decision on how and where to rate it. Thus, there is now double oversight: by the State or Territory, as well as at the national level. The South Australian government acknowledges that simulated gambling games are much in demand; the new legislation is intended solely to prevent children – who would not be allowed in land-based casinos, after all – from stumbling on to the addictive games. Ratings such as the MA15+ and R18+ places the onus on the manufacturers and producers to put appropriate warnings in place to restrict young users from purchasing such games:
  • the rules specify that all relevant games with simulated gambling concepts should be labeled for an audience of 18 or older
  • specify that simulated gambling never entails real-money prizes or cash, or that playing the games will make any proprietor better at real-life gambling
  • leave an easily-accessible disclaimer advising teens and parents on how to make good choices online and responsible gaming

The above principles espoused by the South Australian government are the bare minimum, as outlined in the Best Practice Principles pamphlet authored by the International Social Games Association. Overall, it seems that Australia recognizes the growing abundance of simulated gambling games and how attractive they are, but also the need to continue restricting childrens’ access to them.