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Australian government pushes for R18+ rating on any game with gambling

Australian government pushes for R18+ rating on any game with gambling
Mar 31, 2023

The Australian Federal Government revealed this week that they are advocating for the implementation of an R18+ rating on all video games featuring simulated gambling, marking the most stringent measure of its kind to date.

While Belgium's well-known Loot Box laws have frequently made headlines since their introduction several years ago, the latest proposal from Australia differs slightly, targeting all types of gambling within video games, not just "surprise mechanics."

According to the ABC, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland is requesting that each state and territory in the country approve the plan, which would assign an adults-only rating to any game containing "simulated gambling." This covers anything resembling actual gambling, such as digital slot machines.

While this would influence some popular games, the broader implications would be felt by any game continuing to use loot boxes. The proposed legislation aims to "alter classification regulations to mandate that all games with purchasable loot boxes — where players can buy a box containing a randomized in-game item — receive at least a 'mature' M-rating."

If these proposals become law, it would mean that some of the world's most successful retail video games, like EA's FIFA series, would see their ratings jump from "G" (for general audiences) to "M" for "Mature." It's worth noting that in Australia, an "M" rating suggests a recommendation for individuals over 15, which does not legally restrict children from accessing games. However, the stricter "MA15+" rating legally limits the sale of products to those over 15 years old.

If we consider the issue of problem gambling in Australia, where Australian citizens lost around $25 billion on legal forms of gambling in 2018-2019 alone, which by the way, are the largest per capita losses in the world, we can see where the Australian government is coming from. Across the pond in the Netherlands and Belgium, where laws against loot boxes and other digital gambling elements saw mobile-focused Diablo Immortal not launching at all in 2022.

Rowland explains that "there is increasing public concern about the negative effects of simulated gambling." She adds that "a parent, for example, should be informed if their child has bought and is playing a game containing simulated gambling."