Popular video games may soon face Xenophon’s wrath

A number of popular video games may soon find themselves defined as gambling under a bill to be introduced by independent Senator Nick Xenophon next month, local media reports.

The incoming legislation would make it illegal for games to charge for items of varying value according to chance, and add minimum age requirements on paying to play, and games could be required to carry clear warnings of gambling content.

“This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids,” Senator Xenophon said.

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

The bill will define gambling in a way “that includes these sorts of games,” he said.

Valve Corporation’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) recently made gaming headlines after Valve announced a crackdown on “skin betting”.

Skin betting is a concept where gamers can wager in-game weapon skins (decorations) over the outcome of a professional game.

These “skins” are obtained in game through “cases” or “loot boxes” provided in game, which are unlocked with a purchase of a US$2.49 key. Their worth can vary from as little to a few cents (common skin), to a few thousand dollars (rare skin) and can be sold for real money on the Valve marketplace.

According to Fairfax media, it is estimated the $7.4 billion will be wagered on skin gambling this year may balloon to $19.3 billion within four years.

Gambling on competitive video games – eSports betting has also seen explosive growth around the world. Cash betting on eSports is estimated to be worth $600 million this year but $13.6 billion by 2020.

The relevant Australian legislation, the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, is “15 years old but may as well be 150 years old in terms of dealing with these issues”, said Senator Xenophon.