Australia’s anti-gambling warlord Sen. Nick Xenophon has locked on a new target after announcing his plans to push for gambling reform in Australia: first-person shooter video games.
Xenophon, a habitual gambling scold, now wants to define the multiplayer first-person shooter video games – such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 – as gambling in an update to the current Interactive Gambling Act of 2001.
He claimed that children are “being groomed for gambling” through first-person shooter games such as Counter-Strike and Dota which he describes as “incredibly misleading and deceptive.”
“This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids,” said Xenophon, according to the report of Sydney Morning Herald. “Instead of shooting avatars, parents soon find out that [their children] have shot huge holes through their bank accounts.”
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Dota 2 are two of the most popular video games played by children and teenagers at present. The games, however, have been dragged into controversy after both introduced enhancement items – popularly known as “skins” – to gamers.
Critics claimed that these skins were used as virtual currency in the game and can also be exchanged for real money. Depending on the rarity, prices of skins range from less than a dollar (US$.076) to more than AUS$2000 (US$1511.47). Just like chips in a casino, players could cash out their skins at any time or simply use them in game.
Gambling industry analyst Chris Grove, who cited the data culled by Ellers Research, earlier said that skin betting in 2016 put the total handle at $5 billion. On the other hand, Gaming research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming reported that skin gambling had an annual turnover of AUS$9.7 billion (US$7.4 billion) in June. The research company projected that the market will grow steadily over the next four years.
With this in mind, Xenophon pointed out that there’s a need to amend the present Interactive Gambling Act since it had become obsolete in terms of addressing the issue.
Aside from classifying multi-player shooter video games as gambling, Xenophon’s bill aims to make it illegal for games to charge for items and setting a minimum age to play. He is expected to seek bipartisan support for the bill when federal Parliament opens this month.
ESports gambling has been a hot topic in July after two of the biggest streamer names – Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “ProSyndicate” Cassell – have been caught with their pants down after it comes to light that they have been skin betting on a gambling site they own without full disclosure.
Meanwhile, eSports game developer Valve Corp. was forced to crack a whip on Counter-Strike and Dota 2 third party gambling sites after two separate lawsuis were filed against the company in Connecticut and Florida for its alleged relationship to illegal gambling.
In a notice, Valve orders 23 individual skin betting sites to stop the use of their Steam accounts for any commercial purpose. Among the sites which has received the notice was CSGOLounge.com, which is said to be the clear market leader among skin-based sports betting sites.