The Australian government has announced it will introduce stricter restrictions on video games with gambling-like content to protect children from gambling-related harm.

From September 2024, mandatory minimum classifications will apply to these games. This comes after all states and territories in Australia agreed to update the computer games classification guidelines in 2023.

Titles with in-game purchases tied to random elements such as paid loot boxes will receive a minimum rating of M. This rating refers to “adult” in Australia, with games not recommended for children under 15 years of age.

Computer games that involve simulated gambling, such as social casino games, will be legally restricted to adults only. These games receive a minimum rating of R18+.

In announcing the decision, the government referred to recent research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies. It found that young people who played simulated gambling were 40% more likely than young adults to spend real money on gambling.

The government said it consulted with a number of parties before making changes to video gaming guidelines. These include key industry and community stakeholders, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Classification Board.

“The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable Australians from harm caused by gambling – including children who may be exposed to gambling through video games,” said Communications Minister Michelle Rowland MP.

“I thank the states and territories for joining us in making real changes that protect children from gambling-like content through these changes to our classification system.”

“Research shows that children exposed to gambling-like content may be more vulnerable to gambling harm later in life. We are committed to early intervention to ensure children’s safety.

“These changes represent another step in our work to modernize the national classification system so Australians can make better-informed decisions about what they – and those in their care – watch, read and play.”

Ongoing efforts to combat gambling harm in Australia

The announcement represents the government’s latest attempt to tackle gambling harm in Australia.

Other current initiatives include a ban on the use of credit cards for online betting. Earlier this month, the government introduced a bill to advance this proposal.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023 aims to ban credit cards and other credit-related products. It also includes digital currencies.

In Australia, gambling with credit cards at land-based establishments is already banned. The bill aims to bring online gambling into line and, in effect, provide for a general ban on all credit card gambling.

Meanwhile, the government has introduced evidence-based slogans to replace “play responsibly” and introduced consistent training across the country for staff working in the sector.

Consumers also now have access to BetStop’s national self-exclusion register. You can exclude yourself from gambling with all Australian licensees for a period of between three months and a lifetime.

In addition, the government will introduce mandatory pre-verification of customers. This requires operators to verify a customer’s identity when they register for a new account and before they can place a bet.