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South Australia govt: Gambling starts with Games

The South Australian Government has fired another volley in the war against video games. Billboards have started popping up around Adelaide proclaiming that "Gambling starts with Games", with a picture of a young girl sitting at a poker table holding an iPad. But what's this really all about?

Gambling starts with games

Visit: nogame.com.au

It's all a new public awareness campaign, Gambling is no game, which advises parents to "look out for online games that simulate gambling". Specifically - and despite what the advertising may have you believe - the SA Government does not believe that playing Super Mario Bros will lead you to becoming a blackjack junkie, or that spending every waking hour in Call of Duty will result in you spending your last dollar down at the race track.

Specifically, it is targeting parents of "very young children", and warning them of the risks involved with the many, many gambling simulator games that are on the market these days.

Many of these are available on tablets or smartphones, difficult to monitor, and seemingly designed with younger audiences in mind. They are packed with bright colours, flashing lights, catchy tunes and a whole stack of positive feedback and rewards - many using exactly the same approach as real-world, "grown-up" poker machines.

"Fast facts about online simulated gambling games", from the NoGame website:

  • Gambling content sometimes appears in a game by linking to another site that lets you win extra credits for your game.
  • Casino-style games are available for video game consoles, on social media sites, and as apps that allow you to practise gambling without betting money (e.g. blackjack and poker games). Often these games give free credits, but encourage you to purchase more.
  • Some commercial internet gambling sites offer demo/practice modes that allow young people to practise gambling before playing for real.
  • Some types of simulated gambling are more risky for children than others. Some of the key factors that make a game risky are:
    • a realistic gambling environment – a game might look like a casino or real poker machine
    • frequent simulated gambling – a game might only involve playing slot machines or blackjack
    • it is easy to win at the gambling activity – a game might make sure that you win more than you lose
  • There may be hidden costs in the games your child is playing. While many games are free to download, some can include in-game costs that can be easily purchased, often without parents being aware.
  • It is possible for children to buy online without needing a parent’s credit card or password. For example, a child can buy pre-purchased ‘load and go’ cards from the post office or supermarket, and use these for in-app purchases.

Recent Australian studies show that "almost one third" of teenagers have tried simulated gambling online, with one in 10 checking them out on Facebook, one in 20 using a smartphone, and a further 10% playing simulated electronic slot machine games.

A 2011 report shows that a startling 2.7% of Australian 15-17 year olds is classified as a "problem gambler" - and the number gets worse as the children get younger: 3.6% of 10-14 year olds fall into the same category (source).

While current research has not demonstrated that engaging in simulated gambling causes someone to be a problem gambler, experts have identified there is evidence of a link between exposure of some children to simulated gambling and the development of problem gambling in adulthood.

The official plan from the South Australian Government has some good points: Introducing a classification scheme to apply to downloadable games and apps, a cyber safety inclusion in the school curriculum, and a grant focus on young people and gambling - but their "community awareness campaign" has some holes in it.

We're not denying that gambling simulators are something parents should be aware of. But. There are plenty of games that are not gambling simulators. While the government has studies that show a link between gaming and gambling, there are others that show links between gaming and good childhood development. Video games - even those on tablets and smartphones - are used in educational settings, by both teachers and parents.

South Australia has long been seen as an enemy of video games: Former Attorney-General Mick Atkinson famously stood in the way of Australia's R18+ rating for video games. In more recent years, his replacement John Rau has called for the abolition of the MA15+ rating, and submitted several games for re-classification, claiming they were inappropriately labelled under the revamped classification scheme.

...and now this, which still doesn't show gamers in the best light.

We have contacted both John Rau and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill to find out why they have chosen to promote their message in this way - we'll be sure to keep you posted.

Why not check out our latest vidcast!
Player Attack TV: October 17 2014, SE2 EP36 or subscribe to our YouTube channel.


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8 Responses to “South Australia govt: Gambling starts with Games”

  1. […] case you were under the assumption that the South Australian Government's Gambling starts with Games campaign would slip under the radar, think again. Australia's Interactive Games & […]

  2. […] Attorney-General John Rau is also currently spearheading a public awareness campaign that purports videogames as being a gateway to gambling for children, no doubt also at significant public expense. Thank you for keeping our childen safe […]

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