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).

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