- »Wilkie Again Asks AU Parliament to Ban Social Casinos
Wilkie Again Asks AU Parliament to Ban Social Casinos
Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie proposed legislation to ban all social casinos. These online games are often free to play but charge customers for perks like extra virtual chips or assistance to win the games. Wilkie claims this contributes to overall gambling problems in Australia.
The Year of the Social Casino Crusade
Federal MP Andrew Wilkie has long been connected with proposals and legislation to rid Australia of most forms of gambling. At the very least, he advocates for reform and has done so for more than a decade in government.
As 2020 got underway, Wilkie called for the Australian government to heavily regulate the social gaming industry. “This is gambling,” he said at the time, “and anyone who tries to tell you its not is wrong. These should be regulated in Australia in exactly the same way as mainstream online casino games and that’s to ban them.”
The coronavirus pandemic that reared its head in Australia in February and March put a stop to most legislation and parliamentary activities. But the months of shutdowns included the absence of live gambling options brought to light the prevalence of online gaming.
Online gambling is technically illegal in most forms via the Australian government’s reforms in past years, but offshore casino sites are still popular and became more so during the pandemic quarantines. Social gaming rose in popularity in an even more dramatic fashion.
This prompted Wilkie to propose legislation to ban all apps and websites that accept money from players but don’t allow them to win anything tangible and cash out for money.
Wilkie reiterated his key point when proposing this legislation this week: “Australia has a gambling problem.”
Bill Proposal Details
Wilkie’s statement to Parliament outlined some of the details of his proposal, including making operators face criminal and civil charges for offering the games to Australians.
The Australian government will be able to assess charges for each day that an operator offers social casino games. The proposal does not target players and users.
In order to enforce the proposed law, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will have the authority to apply for federal court injunctions. Those injunctions would allow ACMA to block domain names, URLs and IP addresses of social gambling providers.
Further, search engine providers (i.e. Google) would be able to remove search results which refer users to the online locations of the prohibited services. ACMA could order search engine providers to do so.
The new bill from Wilkie would also strengthen provisions in the Interactive Gambling Act regarding online casino games.
What are Social Casinos?
Social gaming sounds like something people do together, such as play a home poker game or bingo in a church hall. The type of social gambling in this bill is the kind found on social media platforms like Facebook. People call them social games because the activities are not competitive with regard to real money and often serve as virtual social gatherings of friends and friendly competitors.
While some players find their games through Facebook, others simply find apps and websites that offer those games. They can be anything from Angry Birds to PokerStars free-to-play poker.
They offer free gaming, but there are typically options in those games for players to purchase perks, like extra chips, hints, or additional time. These are fodder for players who want to progress more quickly in a game rather than adhere to the time and chip limits imposed by the operator.
Wilkie Equates Social Gaming and Gambling
Per Wilkie in his speech to Parliament:
“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. This not only instills false confidence in players and encourages greater spending on social casinos but primes players for movement onto more serious gambling sites. Not only that, but ads for gambling services are often embedded into the social media platform hosting the social casino, which actively encourages players to move across to other betting websites.”
Wilkie also contended that social games encourage children and young adults to use a parent’s credit card to buy game perks. Further, he claimed that even free-play games “prepare children for gambling with real money later in life because they familiarize underage users with how to play casino games.”
As mentioned, Wilkie has maintained a strong anti-gambling stance for the past decade. Whether calling for all-consuming bans on pokies and online gambling or negotiating improvements to current laws, Wilkie is fairly consistent in his desire to remove most forms of gambling from the Australian mainstream.
Interestingly, however, he doesn’t seem to have the same feelings about sports betting. He has never called for a ban on that activity or even worked toward making sports wagering less available online and in person throughout Australia.
The only public policy Wilkie seems to support in that area is an advertising ban. He supported prohibiting betting ads aired during live sporting events on television and radio before 8:30pm. He also wants to see the federal government ban gambling ads during children’s viewing times.
That’s it. Otherwise, he appears to be fine with sports betting activities. He is not concerned that children and young adults – many of whom watch and participate in sports – will find betting appealing.
In addition, Wilkie has no position on his website regarding lottery activities.