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  • James Harding

    Tech and IT writer

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    Inside the unregulated world of online video game gambling

    TropicNow's technology writer James Harding digs beneath the surface of online gaming to uncover some hidden gambling dangers all parents should be aware of.

    Gambling in popular online video games has been a hot topic in the global gaming community this month but is largely unheard of in the wider world, especially by parents.

    Here is a bit of background to what has been happening in the last few years:

    1. One of the most popular online shooting games called Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has a system where players can buy, sell and trade items in the game for real currency through the game developer's marketplace called Steam.

    2. These items are most commonly 'skins' that are used to change the look of a particular weapon the game. These can be worth anywhere from 2 cents to $1200 each, depending on the rarity or supply and demand.

    The main issue here is that websites exist that are purely set up for players to gamble their skins for the chance to obtain more skins.

    These websites have operated separately from the game for some time and there is literally no regulation of the age of people using these sites.

    You could understand how easy it is for kids to become addicted to the chance of winning all while they pump money into the game.

    It is effectively an under-18s online casino with the flashing lights and sounds we all know exist to promote addiction, except it all looks innocent enough like teenagers spending a bit of pocket money on a game.

    But in the last six months there have been a number of global developments:

    1. An extremely well known online YouTube streamer made a number of videos showing how easy it was to win money on the skin gambling and was later found to be the owner of the website who had rigged the system for him to publicly win. This was seen by hundreds of thousands of impressionable young gamers (probably with mum's credit card already saved in their system)

    2. The developer of the game itself is being sued for creating a system so easily taken advantage of and passively turning a blind eye to what was happening

    3. Since the lawsuit was filed the game developer has issued cease and desist notices to people running these skin gambling operations

    4. Senator Nick Xenophon will be introducing a bill to make it illegal for games to seek payment for items of varying value according to chance.

    I certainly believe it's important that the loophole is closed.

    But until it becomes regulated by law, parents need to be aware of what may be happening with their children are playing online games.