A Wagga gambling counsellor has welcomed independent Senator Nick Xenophon’s plan to crack down on a new breed of video games.
Julie McDermott from Wagga Family Support Service said “in-game purchases” offered instant gratification to players and could potentially lead to gambling.
“When people are paying for things with credit cards online and not physical cash it doesn’t seem as real,” Ms McDermott said.
“It’s easy to spend more than they plan to and it can add up quickly.
“This is especially a problem for children who may not think through their actions.”
Senator Xenophon said children were being groomed for gambling through hugely popular multiplayer first-person shooter games such as Counter-Strike:Global Offensive and Dota2 but their parents were oblivious.
“This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids,” Senator Xenophon said.
The “insidious” games played by hundreds of thousands of Australian teenagers “purport to be one thing” but are “morphing into full-on gambling and that itself is incredibly misleading and deceptive”.
“Instead of shooting avatars, parents soon find out (their children) have shot huge holes through their bank accounts,” he said.
Joshua Graham, a software developer and gamer from Uranquinty, said online communities had given rise to virtual economies where people spend real money on in-game items.
“They call it ‘free to play’, but really it’s ‘pay to win’,” Mr Graham said.
“Games like Pokemon Go are all well and fine, but because you can also pay to make it easier you get to the stage where you can outplay those who haven’t paid.”
However, Mr Graham said he didn’t think there was a direct connection between gaming and gambling, but other factors were at play. Instead, parents needed to pay more attention to what their kids were doing online and who they were spending time with.
Ms McDermott said busy parents and the rise of easy digital payments had led to a call for gambling talks in schools.
“The issue really is quite large,” she said. “It’s easy for young people to get caught up in the ‘escape’ and it’s happening more and more. The problem with online gambling is you don’t have to go anywhere, you can do it from your phone or home.”