Adjournment – Online gaming regulation

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (17:03): My adjournment item this evening is to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation. The action I seek is for the minister to update the house on how the Andrews Labor government can raise awareness of gambling-like gaming which is available to our children and young adults. Yesterday in the house I raised the issue of loot boxes and my concerns around their gambling-like design and the overall lack of regulation and consumer protections across the video and online gaming industry. Particularly concerning is the ability of children or those under 18 to access these games without restrictions, classifications or warnings that might let parents know what is in them despite mounting concern that the mechanics of loot boxes are encouraging gambling-style behaviour among kids, potentially leading them to addiction later in life.

There is compelling data showing that when you expose children to gambling tendencies they can develop gambling problems as adults. To put this in perspective I would like to provide some statistics to give indication as to the reach and scope of this issue. In 2020, 91 per cent of Australian households owned a video game device and 81 per cent of children aged between five and 14 years played video games. Australians are among the highest per capita spenders on video games in the world, with the total gaming and eSports revenue hitting $3.175 billion in 2019 and $3.403 billion in 2020. The in-game digital purchase segment grew a staggering 190 per cent year on year. As I mentioned yesterday, over a dozen industrialised countries around the world are investigating and regulating loot boxes. The Netherlands and Belgium have banned them entirely because of their gambling-like design. Yet in Australia there is zero regulation and federal classification does not do anything about them. The industry has failed to sufficiently and efficiently self-regulate by implementing ethical game design principles. Whilst jurisdiction falls largely in the federal sphere, at a state government level surely we can raise awareness and look into steps to safeguard our Victorian children from being exposed to this potentially harmful virtual content. I look forward to the minister’s response on this very important issue.