Gambling is insidious, it seems to pervade sport and a lot of social activity, it has also crept into the video games that so fascinate our kids.
Now the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) has called on Australian parliamentarians to consider strengthening protections for young people by defining chance-based micro-transactions in digital games as a form of online gambling.
“It is very encouraging that the Senate unanimously voted to refer the issue of chance-based micro- transactions in digital games to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry,” said AHISA CEO Ms Beth Blackwood.
Chance-based micro-transactions are related to ‘loot boxes’, ‘bundles’ or ‘crates’, which players may be invited to purchase within digital game play (including within ‘freemium’ games) for a chance to win items that enhance their gaming. Even when there is no purchase, items may be exchanged for money on third-party websites.
“Simulated gambling games and games that include gambling elements risk normalising gambling as an everyday activity for young people,” said Blackwood. “This risk can be reduced if Australia adopts regulatory action now. We can begin with an official determination that chance-based micro-transactions in digital games are a form of gambling to bring such games within the remit of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. We can also learn from legislation already introduced in Europe, the United States and China, such as by introducing warnings or age restrictions on games or banning loot boxes altogether.”
She said that a recent British survey of young people aged 11 to 16 years found that 15% of boys and 7% of girls had gambled with their own money in the week prior to the survey.
“The British research is alarming, and Australian research is equally concerning,” said Blackwood. “A study published by the Australian Gambling Research Centre indicates that around 20 per cent of adults and adolescents who play simulated gambling games move to online commercial gambling.”
Blackwood said the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and other government funded initiatives are already providing valuable information and education tools on gambling targeted at young people, parents and schools, but that more action is required.
“We want the Australian Government to consider children and young people as a specific target group within Australia’s gambling population,” said Ms Blackwood. “We have recommended to the Committee inquiry that an advisory group to the federal Minister for Social Services be established to monitor developments relating to risk of harm to children and young people from online gambling, including from simulated games and in-game gambling.”
"An advisory group could be tasked with recommending national research projects, pinpointing new information of relevance to government-supported education programs and websites and suggesting amendments to existing legislation or other government regulatory measures such as industry use of product classifications and warnings."
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