Since the repeal of PASPA in 2018, online gambling has once again become a hot-button topic in the United States. Many states have moved to rewrite or introduce gambling laws allowing sports betting and online gambling in a variety of forms since the repeal, and operators outside the US have started to target a once less lucrative customer base. At the same time, video games are as popular as ever, with about 42% of Americans gaming regularly.
With the resemblance to many relevant video games that slots and video machines have, as well as the gaming loot system that is so similar to gambling, it seems like a natural fusion to eventually implement online pokies or virtual kino games on console systems. But could real money gambling come to Xbox systems in the near future?
Enthusiasm for online gambling is high in the states right now, but not everyone is on board. Sports betting has been given the green light; meanwhile, online gambling is still a huge grey area overshadowed by complex federal law and corrupt operators.
The Limits of the Laws
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was struck down by the Supreme Court just over three years ago, allowing states to make their own decisions regarding the legalization of sports betting. However, online gambling across state lines and offering other games online is still considered illegal for operators because of laws like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and the Federal Wire Act.
This is a highly debated set of Federal laws that some US operators and judges have pushed back against. The Department of Justice has seen several appeals over the last decade regarding the Federal Wire Act and its application to online gambling. There probably won’t be a clear consensus anytime soon, although the last appeal filed by the DoJ was following District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro’s decision that the Wire Act only applies to sports gambling.
It Pays to Play Offshore
Casino operators in the US are doing their best to adjust to new laws and new demands, bringing sportsbook and mobile sports betting to different states and pairing with online app providers like FanDuel and DraftKings. But operators outside of the US are less motivated to work within the confines of Federal law. Finding an online casino or somewhere on the internet to gamble with real money is hardly impossible, but it is risky.
These offshore operators want to attract customers, but because the US government isn’t equipped to prosecute them outside of the country, they aren’t motivated to provide the best online casino experience. Often customers will lose out on earnings, face card theft, or be locked out of accounts they have already paid into by shady operators.
Bad Reputation for Loot Boxes
The climate surrounding gambling in video games is also one fraught with controversy. Some countries have moved to ban features like loot boxes and microtransactions within games, comparing the features to gambling. A UK gambling commission in 2018 credits loot boxes as part of the reason for a spike in problem gambling among children and has called for legislative action to take place in addition to cracking down on online gambling operators. Other countries have made laws to force more transparency when it comes to loot boxes. Since 2016, China has passed laws forcing games with loot boxes to share not only the names of all the possible drops but the probability of each reward drop as well. Companies must provide exact drop rates and there is a limit on the maximum number of loot boxes that can be purchased in a day.
With such hostility towards the idea of gambling crossing over into the realm of video games, where there are so often minors involved and players want the utmost transparency, it seems unlikely that real money gambling could ever come to consoles. There are, however, games that have brought gambling and casinos to the Xbox in a different way.
Test Your Virtual Luck
Some of the biggest titles in recent years invite players to try their hand at gambling in-game, wagering virtual currency and testing their skills against AI or even other players. In GTA Online, the Diamond Casino and Resort invites players to try their luck at slots, table games, or even bet on horses. Red Dead Redemption 2 allows players, as protagonist Arthur Morgan, to place bets in the occasional poker or blackjack game–unless they live in a specific region that is. While these games have larger plots, there are some titles where the premise of the game is simply gambling.
Prominence Poker is an Xbox One release where players have the option to play poker against each other, while Four Kings Casino and Slots is designed to emulate the casino experience. While these games do have microtransactions, there’s no real money gambling involved.