Australian Parliament Moves to Ban Social Casinos

Social casinos are a controversial gambling game where users pay in real money but can’t win cash and instead are rewarded virtual chips. Social casinos, unlike real-casinos, do not offer players the chance to win real money and have long been criticized as a predatory means to target children and inexperienced adults who haven’t gambled before.

Social media apps.

Facebook and social media have become excellent vehicles for many social casino applications to market themselves. Young and inexperienced users are targeted overwhelmingly so and duped into playing at social casinos where no money can be cashed out. ©LoboStudioHamburg/Pixabay

Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie has initiated a bill that would seek to ban this activity throughout Australia. A longstanding advocate of gambling abolition, the independent MP has called for the government to ban this dangerous form of gambling. It is part of a wider agenda to end the preferential treatment the gambling sector has been receiving from legislative action, despite the clear evidence of direct societal harm.

At a time when live sports and land-based casinos have been closed down due to the coronavirus outbreak, Australian gamblers are overwhelmingly turning to online alternatives. There has been a $15bn increase in Australian online gambling, and the market share of online operators is rapidly increasing.

As Andrew Wilkie points out in his bill, there has been a severe lack of attention towards online gambling legality in Australia. The regulators have not paid close enough attention to the industry that is rapidly expanding and becoming increasingly tied into the fabric of the countries gambling industry with each year that passes.

Social gambling, as we will explain is a major cause for concern of a lot of Australian lawmakers, so it is highly likely that the merits of this movement will be seen. There is a huge problem in the country right now with a predatory advertisement, targeted towards children and vulnerable players to try and entice them to engage with gambling products that offer no chance of winning real money.

Unlike formal online gambling, the rules and regulation in social casinos are particularly murky. This bill raised by Andrew Wilkie serves as a fantastic driving force to bring about real continuity over Australia’s stance towards gambling, and indeed, it will help legitimize the gambling bodies that do take these precautions and aspects of the casino seriously.

Social Casinos Gaining in Popularity

The integration of social casino games into popular social media platforms is a major driving force for their popularity across multiple social channels. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social-media mobile apps are being used by these social-casinos as a vehicle to extend their reach and influence toward players that would not usually be interested in classic forms of gambling.

In these virtual casinos, players are targeted with offers and enticing deals that make promises of free chips and game credit, only to be engineered to encourage real-money deposits and purchases to continue playing and make higher bets. At the heart of the problem is the fact that these type of games do not pay out any winnings to the player, the cash flow is one-way from the customer to the operator.

Currently, the law in Australia makes it illegal operators to offer online casinos, and yet this type of social-casino is still allowed by the technicality that it doesn’t payout to the customer. The bill raised by Andrew Wilkie seeks to make it illegal to provide social casino services to Australians, and extends the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority to carry out injunctions against internet service providers, URLs and IP addresses which provide prohibited casino and gambling services to Australian citizens.

Andrew Wilkie has been the leader of this movement, and a long-term advocate of tighter restrictions on the gambling industry. On the personal website of MP Andrew Wilkie, he discusses his stance on gambling and talks about the social casino problem.

Social casinos encourage gambling, and by implication addiction, by normalizing gambling behavior, increasing player confidence in winning, and making gambling seem more socially acceptable and risk-free.Andrew Wilkie, Independent Federal MP

Importantly, as Andrew Wilkie correctly points out, the false confidence that this type of gambling instills targets very young and inexperienced players, and is particularly exploitive. The mechanics of these apps prime players for real money gambling, and often embedded into social casino apps are ads for casinos that can be easily jumped across too with just one click of a button.

This predatory form of gambling preys on children and inexperienced players who may not even understand that they are risking their own money. The games intentionally mask any element of risk and make it seem like a reward is duly being played for skill in the game. The ball is now in the court of the government to take decisive action over this unethical form of gaming.

Currently, it is not considered a crime to play these games, but after tabling the bill MPs will now have the chance to support Andrew Wilkie and bring about everlasting change in this clearly unjust system of exploitation and preying on the vulnerable.

Another attack vector being targeted by anti-gambling advocates is focusing on the fact that many of these games come from overseas jurisdictions, which are easily accessible across Australia. If this bill is given the support that it deserves, then Australian state authorities will be granted immense powers to file injunctions against these providers, and cripple the foreign websites targeting Australian citizens with unethical social casino games.

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