Australia: Simulated gambling in South Australia’s sights

Having passed the Statutes Amendment (Gambling Reform) Act 2013 (SA) (as we have previously discussed here), the South Australian Government has now set its sights on ensuring that South Australian children are not exposed to simulated gambling in the online environment. Premier Jay Wetherill has announced his Government’s new Children, Technology and Gambling policy which is designed to keep children safe from the “onslaught of gambling-like games that are readily available online and through social media“.

The Premier noted that “we don’t let children into pokie rooms or casinos, so why would we allow our young children unfettered access to similar games online?

The policy identifies two key measures to prevent such access.

The first measure is to develop a public “Watch List” that will incorporate public and professional feedback about games and apps and identify those that should be avoided by families and children because of their simulated gambling content. Watch List monitors and members of the public will also be encouraged to refer games and apps of concern to the South Australian Classification Council (SACC) for classification.

Secondly (and more concretely), the Government intends to introduce a Bill to amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (SA) so that simulated gambling content is a factor that must be considered when the SACC is called upon to classify games. In Australia, the classification of films, publications and computer games is usually handled at a national level by the Commonwealth Classification Review Board, however, each State and Territory has legislation in place which allows it to reclassify films, publications and computer games for the particular State or Territory, particularly if the State or Territory classification council has received complaints.

The Government intends to classify the riskiest simulated gambling games as MA15+ or R18+ and make it an offence to  provide or advertise those games without putting in place a system that restricts access to persons below the relevant age.

The Best Practice Principles, released in late October 2013 by the International Social Games Association are consistent with this approach in that they require casino style games:

  • to specify that they are intended for use by individuals aged 18 or older;
  • to provide advice to parents and/or teens on making smart choices online; and
  • should not deliberately lead players to believe that they will be successful at real money gambling games.

However, it is clear that the proposed South Australian regulations go further than these principles.

The South Australian Government has also voiced its intention to lobby the Commonwealth so that simulated gambling is added as a classifiable element (along with themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity) to the Commonwealth classification laws.

This is yet another measure in a series of measures taken by the South Australian Government in the area. It again indicates its interventionist policies, which are not necessarily in keeping with the rest of the State and Territory Governments around the country. With an election due in March 2014, it will be interesting to see if these policies have an impact on the result.