Independent Federal MP Andrew Wilkie asked the Australian parliament to ban the use of social casinos. Wilkie introduced the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Banning Social Casinos and Other Measure) Bill 2020 last week. Parliament must now decide to implement the bill, which effectively bans social casinos for Australians.

Wilkie started his political career in 2003 after leaving the Australian army. He has long been opposed to most forms of gambling and says he’s determined to reduce problem gambling in Australia. Wilkie usually scrutinizes pokies but his attention is now on online social casinos.

Social casinos are extremely popular, particularly on social media platforms such as Facebook. Dozens of major gambling companies have social casinos and games where you can play for free. The law only considers an activity gambling if there are monetary prizes or prizes of value offered. Players can’t win money, therefore, they’re not gambling. Wilkie completely disagrees with this school of thought.

“Social Casinos Encourage Gambling”

Wilkie put his case across for banning social casinos in parliament last week. He targeted applications on Facebook, stating players are enticed to use real money despite playing with play chips.

“Social casinos are games played on social media platforms like Facebook, websites or phone apps. In these virtual casinos, players are enticed in with free chips and credits, only to be encouraged to pay real money to continue playing or place higher bets. The real kicker is that players can’t cash out once the game is finished.”

The Bill makes it illegal to provide social casino services to customers in Australia. It also gives the Australian Communications and Media Authority the power to block domain names, if passed.

Wilkie claimed social casinos encourage Australians to gamble for real money in online casinos. Social casinos, he claims, give users false confidence in winning because there isn’t a downside to losing.

“Social casinos encourage gambling, and by implication addiction, by normalising gambling behaviour, increasing player confidence in winning, and making gambling seem more socially acceptable and risk free. This not only instils false confidence in players and encourages greater spending on social casinos, but primes players for movement onto more serious gambling sites.”

Children and young adults are the demographic most at risk from social casinos, Wilkie said. These games effectively prepare children for gambling with real money in later life.

“The ball is now in the Government’s court. Either it will see sense and support the bill, or rollover and get its tummy tickled again by the gambling industry.”

Casinos and Gambling Are Extremely Common Online

These products are everywhere you look on Facebook where almost anyone is free to create an app. It isn’t only Facebook where these “gambling” apps spring up, the Apple App Store and Google Play Store is brimming with them.

Major casino outfits create most of these apps to replicate a proper online casino without any financial risk involved. Players can, however, purchase additional play money chips for real money if they run out.

Some of these casinos make it possible to accumulate loyalty points for playing their games. These points remain active if the customer eventually creates a real money account on the main site. This is what Wilkie has a major issue with.

World Series of Poker and PlayWPT are two massive social casinos-type apps on Facebook. Both offer cash games and tournaments for play money with players able to buy more chips using a credit card. Both claim their apps make it possible for people to play poker in jurisdictions where online poker is prohibited.

The social gambling aspect is growing increasingly common in video games, too. So-called “loot boxes” allow players to win in-game extras by exchanging points earned through playing the game or by purchasing with actual money.

EA Sports’ FIFA franchise has FIFA Ultimate Team where players unpack random players. Users earn packs by playing the FIFA game or by buying them in-game. The system randomly rewards them with a player, but “unpacking” the best players in the game is extremely rare.

RockStar took the whole casino game to the next level last year. It released a casino in the Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) game. GTAV players can visit the casino online and play roulette, blackjack, and more. This casino uses the in-game currency, which players earn or buy with physical cash.