Online gaming hits like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive could be legally classed as gambling if Nick Xenophon gets his way.
The South Australia independent is ramping up his war on gambling in the wake of a successful federal election. He’s already pushing for a lower limit on pokies betting. Now, video games where ‘in-app’ purchases can be made to further players’ progress are next in Xenophon’s crosshairs.
Speaking to Fairfax Media, Xenophon said that the current IGA (Interactive Gambling Act) needed an update to recognise the growing popularity in online video games.
“This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids,” he said last week.
“Instead of shooting avatars, parents soon find out that [their children] have shot huge holes through their bank accounts.”
Video Games ‘Skins’ Used As Gambling Chips
Games like Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are hugely popular around the world and professional players can earn a fortune. Good players can build up profiles, and rare weapon “skins” can be sold on online markets like Steam for big sums.
It is also possible to win various rare skins and weapons in pokie-like games of chance on third-party websites. Instead of using money, players “bet” with their old skins for a chance of winning better ones.
Gambling on the result of eSports games is growing too. Many offshore and Australian Internet sports-betting sites offer markets on eSports tournaments. Gamblers can place win bets on various teams in online or live tournaments. Although still a small market compared to NRL or the English Premier League football, the eSports gambling market is predicted to grow over the next few years.
Live ‘eSports’ tournaments can attract huge crowds too. The Crown Casino in Melbourne recently held two eSports events which drew in 15,000 fans. The best teams from Australia, New Zealand and Europe did battle on-stage, with a $50,000 prizepool being shared out.
Commentators like Dr. Mark Griffiths of the UK’s International Gaming Research Unit have said eSports are a minor issue compared to more “traditional” online betting like pokies. Of more concern is the prevalence of online casino games being accessible to youngsters over the net.
Despite a lack of evidence that Australia’s youngsters are being corrupted by gambling on video games, Senator Xenophon is pushing ahead with a cross-party bill to be introduced next month. Warnings on gambling in video games could be published.
Southern Cross University lecturer, Sally Gainsbury, told the Guardian Australia that a crackdown on illegal offshore casino sites was more pressing.
“I think there’s a lot we need to do with regards to updating the law before we start looking at video games in particular – not that that’s not an important area,” she said.
Xenophon Attacks Pokies Betting In SA
Nick Xenophon has been a busy boy this month. He’s already pushing the Statutes Amendment (Gaming Area Prohibitions and Barring Orders) Bill 2016 in South Australia.
The new law would amend current gaming law in SA and, if successful, would see a reduction in maximum bets on the state’s many pokie machines.
With the senator now attacking eSports, it will be interesting to see which area of the betting industry is next in the Xenophon’s firing line.