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Australian Senator calls for first person shooter games to be classed as gambling

'This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids'

Alexandra Sims
Sunday 31 July 2016 21:05 BST
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Nick Xenophon, leader of the Nick Xenophon Team political party
Nick Xenophon, leader of the Nick Xenophon Team political party (AFP)

An Australian senator is calling for a crackdown on popular multiplayer first-person shooter games, labelling them a form of “online gambling” targeting children.

Nick Xenophon, the independent senator for South Australia, has said he will introduce a bill to parliament calling for games such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive to be defined as gambling, updating the country’s 2001 Interactive Gambling Act.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive became the world’s most successful first-person shooter game after it allowed players to obtain virtual weapons, or “skins”, which can range in value from a few cents to thousands of dollars, depending in their rarity.

These skins can then be sold for real money on Steam - the game developer Valve’s in-game marketplace. They can also be bought and sold on third party sites and used like gambling chips on online blackjack and roulette sites, Guardian Australia reports.

In June, gaming research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimated that skin gambling had an annual turnover of around $US 9.74billion, with nearly 26 per cent of this sum spent on lottery-style jackpot games.

Concern has also grown in recent years over the number of young people taking part in skins gambling and betting on competitive video games, known as esports. Esports has also been criticised for being largely unregulated.

“This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids”, Mr Xenophon told Fairfax Media.

These “insidious” games, he says, are “morphing into full-on gambling, and that itself is incredibly misleading and deceptive”.

"Instead of shooting avatars, parents soon find out that [their children] have shot huge holes through their bank accounts.”

Mr Xenophon's bill, for which he is likely to seek bipartisan support, will define gambling in a way “that includes these sorts of games”. Regulations suggested in the bill are understood to include making it illegal for games to charge for items, setting a minimum age to play and displaying gambling warning on games.

Valve Software has recently become the target of two separate lawsuits which allege that the company has been allowing an illegal online gambling market to spring up in the communities of its online gaming communities, such as the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community.

Valve has since released a statement denouncing third-party gambling sites that have been using Steam’s in-game item trading system to exchange weapon and item skins that can be sold for real money, making it clear that their actions are a violation of Steam’s terms of service.

The statement posted by Erik Johnson on the Steam site said Valve does not profit directly from the actions of these gambling sites and that “false assumptions” have been made with regards to Valve’s complicity.

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