Simulated gambling facts

Fast facts about online simulated gambling games:

  • 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.

Gambling is NO GAME – look out for online games that simulate gambling

Australia’s teenagers spend more than five hours a day on digital media activities, according to the Australian Communication and Media Authority.

Unlike previous generations, today’s youth have online lives that blend seamlessly with their offline lives. They invite the world into their daily activities through use of computers, smart phones and tablet devices to view content, socialise, communicate, play games, learn and do homework.

And while teenagers are very technology savvy, it is increasingly common to see very young children – sometimes under three – easily navigating their way around a tablet or smartphone to play a game or watch a video.

Alongside the rapid growth in smartphones, tablets and video games that link to the internet, there has been an explosion in downloadable games. There is no doubt these new technologies bring benefits, but as parents, carers and educators we are all aware of the need to protect children and teenagers from the risks that come with it.

An emerging area of serious concern is games that simulate gambling. Increasingly, these games can be played on social media sites, video games that link to the internet and mobile applications. It’s a growing business in a largely unregulated market.

What is SA doing?

The South Australian Government has a plan to help keep young South Australians safe in the online world and reduce their exposure to simulated gambling games.

The key actions underway in South Australia include:

  • South Australia will introduce new laws that will allow classifications, such as MA15+, to be applied to games that contain simulated gambling. This will enable parents, carers and educators to be better informed about the games children are playing.
  • An online Watch List with reviews of popular apps and online games with gambling content will be developed by March 2014. The value of this initiative is to inform parents and provide an interactive forum for parents and other community members to contribute their views to the Watch List and help identify potential new online games with simulated gambling.
  • An ‘Unleashed’ competition will be held for the local technology industry to develop a tool or resource that gives parents advice about minimising simulated gambling risks.
  • The Premier will take this issue to the Commonwealth Government and other states and territories advocating for the inclusion of simulated gambling in the national classification regime. National action will have the greatest effect in ensuring that children are not exposed to inappropriate or unsuitable gambling content.
  • Cyber safety is part of the Australian Curriculum that is progressively being rolled out to all schools in South Australia. Please ask your child’s teacher or Principal if you would like to know what policies and procedures are in place to protect and inform your child about online predators, cyber bullying and to how to best manage social media.
  • The South Australian government has identified young people and gambling as a social problem to be tackled as part of its youth grant funding.  As a result, programs are now underway to address gambling issues among young people from multicultural communities and to develop a ‘Keep it Fun’ app (to be created by young people) to help their peers understand the risks of excessive gaming and gambling.
  • The South Australian government is running a community awareness campaign to build understanding of the issues and risks so people can make informed decisions about access to online games

What to look out for

It’s important to be aware that simulated gambling content may be part of the games your child is playing.

Gambling is only available to adults through licensed operators whose activities are regulated in order to safeguard children from the potential harms of gambling.

But young people can now gain access to games that provide a realistic gambling experience that is not subject to the same regulations, because money cannot be won. Simulated gambling games are not regulated as legal gambling services and do not meet the definition of interactive online casino-style gambling, which is illegal in Australia.

Simulated gambling content is not classified with age restrictions in the same way as other content that is considered unsuitable for children by the National Classification Code and Guidelines.

With no mandated classifications in place for games that contain simulated gambling content, it is a good idea to carefully read any available descriptions before buying or downloading, to discover if there are any other advisory age ratings or content warnings.

Some providers do not recommend age restrictions and, those that do, generally still allow 12 year-olds to play casino-style games. A four-year-old can play online games with gambling-like properties, such as images and sounds that resemble poker machines.

Many games with simulated gambling features are free to access and presented in ways that attract children with a catchy tune and cartoon-like animations – they can look perfectly harmless and suitable for children. And even games that are free to download can give children the option of buying credits or extra features.

Some games are wholly simulated gambling activity, while others include simulated gambling elements or link to simulated gambling websites, which generate rewards for use in the primary game. These could include slot machine sounds, casino-style poker and scratchy cards.

The risks posed by simulated gambling games include:

  • the opportunity to ‘practise’ gambling behaviours, potentially normalising gambling as a part of everyday life
  • the higher odds of winning, leading children to believe it is easy to win in real-life gambling or that they are skilled at gambling
  • the blurring of the lines between gambling (outcome determined by chance) and gaming (outcome determined by player strategy/skill).

What’s the problem?

Experts are worried that early exposure of children to games that simulate gambling may lead to problem gambling habits in adulthood. Despite this, most of these games are freely available to young people.

Games that simulate gambling give children the opportunity to practise gambling. Playing these games often becomes a daily activity making gambling seem like part of normal everyday life.

Most simulated gambling games are easier to win at than real-life gambling.  This can give children unrealistic expectations that they will always win if they gamble, or make them believe they are ‘lucky’.

These games also blur the line between gambling (where the result is based on chance) and traditional video gaming (where the result is based on the player’s skill).  This can make children think they are skilled at gambling.

All these features can give children a positive attitude toward gambling without knowing about its downsides.

Children are more vulnerable to these risks than adults. Common parts of growing up like peer pressure, attraction to risk-taking and limited knowledge of the realities of gambling can make children and teenagers more attracted to simulated gambling games.

Many Australian adults like to have an occasional bet, and in moderation, gambling can be enjoyable entertainment. But being aware of the potential harms of children being exposed to simulated gambling games will help you make informed choices about what your child or teenager can access and play