The Australian Government announced yesterday a proposal to introduce minimum classification requirements for social casino games and games containing paid loot boxes.
The Federal Minister of Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP, will seek the agreement of all Australian States and Territories to the introduction of a mandatory minimum classification for these types of games.
What are the changes?
The key changes proposed will be a mandatory minimum rating of R 18+ (restricted to 18 and over) for games with simulated gambling and M (Mature – not recommended for those under 15) for computer games containing paid loot boxes. This would have the effect that persons under 18 must not be permitted to purchase a game which contains simulated gambling content.
So, what is a simulated gambling game?
The concept of a simulated gambling game is not clear. However, one example would be a social casino game which is a game that simulates games that might be played on a gaming machine for money but with a key difference, namely that no money or anything of value can be won as a prize.
As a result of the proposal, these types of games will remain outside the scope of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 and will instead be classified as video games and regulated under the National Classification Scheme.
It will be of interest to determine how simulated gambling games will be covered by the proposal and how they will be defined.
How does this impact industry?
These proposals are likely to have a material impact on the games sector. Although the concept of a social casino game may appear to be understood, the parameters within which games may be simulated gambling games or games that include loot boxes are less clear. Many leading game developers are already taking steps to address the potential changes – this includes phasing out loot boxes in many games. This will have material implications for simulated sports games which feature loot boxes.
However, all game developers and suppliers (as well as intermediaries, such as online platforms) will need to put in measures to ensure that any new regulations are complied with.
This might be assisted through a recognition in the Minister’s release that the government intends to expand the current self-classification scheme to make it easier for the film, streaming video and games sector to classify content under Australia’s classification system.
What else is happening in Australia in relation to the regulation of online gambling?
Along with yesterday’s announcement, the Australian Government released the Review of Australian Classification System, 2020 undertaken by Mr Neville Stevens AO. The recommendations from this review are likely to impact significantly Australia’s classification system.
Also, a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm is continuing to consider the scope of ‘gambling service’ as defined in the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth), and whether it should be amended to capture gambling-like activities such ‘loot boxes’ and social casino games.