Public documents unearthed by the Wall Street Journal reveal that social games maker and publisher Zynga spent right around $75,000 in lobbying fees to get its point across to lawmakers in Washington D.C. and Sacramento. So what is on the company's agenda? It wants online gambling legalized so that it can start offering players of its online social games real-world cash.
UK-based game maker Gamesys has launched the first Facebook game ever that allows for real cash prizes. The game, available in the UK, is called Bingo & Slots Friendzy, and is the first on the Facebook App Centre to pay real cash prizes.
Bingo & Slots Friendzy is only accessible to those ages 18 and over, according to Gamesys, who promise "a series of controls" to protect those under 18-years-old and "vulnerable people." Users will also have access "self-help tools to limit their spending and exclude themselves from playing at anytime.”
The state of Delaware has decided to legalize online gambling today. The Delaware State Senate approved the bill by a 14-6 vote to allow online betting in the state. The next stop for the bill is the desk of Gov. Jack Markell (D) for his signature. With state and local governments seeing growing budgets and shrinking revenue, they have warmed up to the idea of allowing gambling both in their cities and online. The law is the second in the country to approve online gambling on a state level.
Ernst & Young LLP has named Greg Enell, CEO of Double Down Interactive, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Award winner for the Pacific Northwest Region. Double Down is best known for its free-to-play casino games on Facebook. Ernst & Young says that the award recognizes "outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success" in a number of key areas including innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.
States across the Union are passing or debating laws that will make online gambling legal, either for their entire state, or – as is the case being discussed in New Jersey, presently – just in certain cities/areas. These legislative changes may represent a shifting in the ideals of voters, but the impetus is most certainly tax revenue and perceived job creation.
A new study from Charité University Medicine in Berlin has made a connection between the time a person spends playing a game with enlarged reward centers in the brain. The study published in Translational Psychiatry conducted test on casual (less frequent) and hardcore (frequent) players, and came to the conclusion that hardcore players had larger reward centers within the left ventral striatum than those who played games less frequently. Researchers also noted that even when players failed in a game, they still experienced stimulation.
Researchers at the Charité University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Berlin, Germany, found that gamers who play "frequently" have greater left striatal gray matter volume compared with those that are considered to be moderate gamers. Researchers say that these findings show the importance of "striatal volume and activity in shaping preference of skills for video gaming."
Yesterday we mentioned that the North Carolina Appeals Court would hear oral arguments about two different cases related to video-style sweepstakes games in the state. Today we know a bit more about what each side argued yesterday before the three-judge panel hearing both cases. The cases relate to an Internet sweepstakes ban that took effect last December and followed an earlier state ban on traditional video poker machines.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments today on two lawsuits related to casino-style video games. This comes after two different trial court judges gave different answers last year to the legality of a 2010 law approved by the North Carolina General Assembly. The mixed message delivered by the courts is confusing everyone - from law enforcement to business owners who want to offer their customers access to the machines.
The South Korean Game Rating Board (GRB) has accused several MMO publishers of obstructing an investigation related to in-game "jackpot items," according to a report in This Is Game. The GRB wants to know from game makers if the in-game purchase of jackpot items should be considered gambling. The Jackpot item system lets players pay a set amount of in-game currency in return for a random item of potentially greater value.
Online gambling for real money is illegal, but a loophole manipulated to great effect by a new company called Playhem makes it perfectly legal. The trick being manipulated by the New York-based start-up is that it allows its users to place wagers on themselves as they compete against each other for cash or prizes.
The man accused of stealing $12 million worth of chips from Zynga Poker users has been sentenced to two years in a UK prison, according to eWeek Europe, and faces additional charges related to a 2008 hacking charge. 29-year-old Ashley Mitchell was sentenced for hacking into Zynga Poker servers and stealing billions in chips valued at around $12 million. He then took the virtual currency and tried to sell it on eBay at deep discounts. He managed to unload about a third of the chips for $85,700 before authorities caught up with him.
People don't seem to know what they want when it comes to gambling. According to two separate polls from Rasmussen, people loathe gambling if it is online, but love it if it is on terra firma. One poll published on August 10th asked people if they had ever gambled online and what they thought of online gambling in general, while another poll conducted on August 9 asked respondents if they approved or disapproved of gambling locally. The results are pretty surprising if you put the responses from both together. It seems that gambling is no longer a moral issue in America..
Australian Senator—and fervent anti-gambling crusader—Nick Xenophon (pictured) is turning his attention to arcade games that feature gambling elements, saying that such entertainment is a “training ground” for children to learn how to gamble.
Xenophon, who previously took on mobile and PC games based on slot machines (or pokies as they are called Down Under), was joined in his latest contention by Charles Livingstone, a Monash University “electronic gaming expert,” who told the Age that such arcade games achieved a pair of purposes: “to indoctrinate kids to gambling, to make them think this is a normal part of life; and to lure children, and with them their parents, into the pokie venues.”
If you already rage when losing online game matches (with nothing really tangible on the line), imagine the way you might feel if the outcome of the bout cost you real cash.
The Ottawa Citizen details the business strategy of Titan Gaming Inc.—a company backed by $1.0 million in venture capital—that plans to allow gamers to wager on the outcome of online contests. Native Ottawan Francisco Diaz-Mitoma created the system's platform, which will allow participants in an online contest to pony up their own money, before a game starts, in order to create the prize pool. Titan would make its living by taking a cut of the winnings.
Diaz-Mitoma moved to India in order for cheap assistance in developing the technology. The entrepreneur is hedging his bet that gambling on games based on skill is legal, which Royal Mounted Police Constable Bill Casey seemed to agree, stating that there doesn’t seem to be any laws prohibiting wagering on a game of skill, like video golf for example, over the Internet.
A South Australian politician fears that downloadable gambling games might fall into the hands of children.
Senator Nick Xenophon (pictured) is taking aim at Australian-based Pokie Magic, which creates mobile and PC games based on slot machines (or pokies). Xenophon, according to AdelaideNow, stated, “If they are an Australian corporation, then we can legislate to stop this.”
“Children will play these applications thinking they cannot lose when in reality you cannot win,” said the Senator, continuing, “We need an overhaul of our laws because the technological world has moved so quickly our laws are out of date and we need a national approach to this.”
While UK bookmakers are infamous for taking bets on just about anything, a counterpart of theirs in Ireland is going a step further and accepting wagers on a videogame match.
Dublin-based Paddy Power is taking wagers on who will win a Super Street Fighter IV match between Ryan Hart and Femi Adeboye, billed as two of the UK’s “most respected players.” The match is scheduled for April 29 and will take place at Capcom’s European headquarters. Paddy Power will offer a live stream of the event.
Paddy Power’s own Paddy Power stated, “We wanted to offer sports fans and games players the ultimate thrill by offering the chance to win big on the outcome of a Super Street Fighter IV competition. If it proves popular, we'll open further books on other videogame competitions."
Can problems with video game addiction lead to other gaming addictions? According to a recent study looking at Australian youth, it can.
An article on BASIS Online looks at the study, which examined the correlation between video game play over the past year with a screening instrument that looks at pathological gambling markers. Participants in the study, a total of 2,669, were 12-17 years old and pulled from four major metropolitan schools in South Australia.
Video game involvement "measures included frequency of play, number of hours played, and type of game played, including: TV games (e.g., Xbox, Nintendo, Playstation); phone-based games; hand-held games (e.g., Nintendo, Gameboy); PC games; and arcade games." Pathological Gambling (PG) was assessed using 12 yes/no questions that looked at past and present behavior. With the answers to these questions allowed researchers to put the student into three groups: Not At Risk, At-Risk and PG. The results of the PG were then correlated with frequency and type of video game play.
The results indicated significant associations between various types of video-gaming and gambling-related problems. However, the effect sizes were very small; this suggests that frequent video-game playing accounts for only a small part of the relationship between video game playing and gambling-related problems among adolescents. The inconsistency within the results (e.g., PC games were protective of PG, but hand-held games did not show a difference between no risk and at risk) suggests that other factors might better explain the association between video games and gambling-related problems. Future research should consider exploring additional factors (e.g., social/family influences, personality, beliefs etc.) that extend beyond frequency of playing video games that may explain why some adolescents experience gambling-related problems.
The article mentioned several limitations on the study and provides a chart that breaks down gambling groups in relation to frequency of video game play in the past year.
Legitimate concern or grasping at straws? I'm honestly not sure.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide has linked regular video game play to gambling addiction.
Australia's ABC News reports on comments by Paul Delfabbro of the University's school of psychology. Delfabbro's team studied more than 2,500 Australian teens and found that more than half admitted to gambling within the preceding 12 months. Delfabbro commented on his findings:
If you look at those young people who are classified as pathological gamblers you will find that they do have a higher frequency of involvement with many different types of videogame. They're much more likely to play games on Xboxes and similar consoles. They are also more likely to play arcade games...
Some young people who don't have a lot of structured activities in their life... what they'll often do is spend very large amounts of time playing videogames or often be more likely to be the ones who go off to street venues to play arcade games.
Those sort of young people who've had this need for more sort of unstructured activities probably also drift into gambling a bit more because it's another activity which you can do if you're out on the street.
However, University of Sydney psychology professor Alex Blaszczynski said that the evidence gathered by Delfabbro does not support a causal link between video game play and compulsive gambling:
Does an interest in gambling lead to people becoming involved in video games or do video games lead to people becoming involved in gambling? Or is there a third factor which accounts for both gambling and videogames?
There’s also the possibility that some people with certain characteristics would then tend to engage in both video and technology type gaming activity and gambling as well. And that may well be linked to things like risk taking or impulsivity or other factors.
The University of Adelaide research will appear in next month's Journal of Gambling Studies.
Should video gamers be allowed to bet real money on their gaming skills (or lack thereof)?
BringIt says that the service it provides is not a form of gambling because its outcomes are based on skill, not chance. From the AP report:
It's free to sign up, provided you are at least 18. The site makes money by taking a 10 percent cut from people's wagers and a $4 fee from winners when they withdraw their loot.
Founder and CEO Woody Levin, 30, said most of the players on BringIt play for small amounts of money, $5 or $10...
BringIt supports the PlayStation 2, the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the Wii. Players challenge each other on the site, but play on their consoles. BringIt holds players' entry fees until the game is finished. After the game is done, it verifies the results and credits the winner, minus the service fee.
Arizona is one of 11 states in which BringIt is illegal, but the Phoenix New Times suggests - with tongue in cheek - that it could be a potential source of tax revenue:
Who knows? Maybe Levin and BringIt will someday steer as much money toward Arizona politicians as the racing industry does, and then Arizona video nuts can clean out each other's bank accounts -- with the state taking its cut, natch.
ESPN The Magazine has an in-depth interview with BringIt's Levin, who mentions that bets can be as high as $100,000.
Here on GamePolitics we have - by design - ignored issues relating to electronic gambling games.
That's because, as a form of entertainment, video games are quite distinct from gambling. But that line may be blurred a bit by a new generation of tavern games which appear to require video game-like skills to win, rather than mere luck.
The Omaha World-Herald reports on one such game, a billiards affair called Bank Shot. While games of chance are considered illegal gambling under laws in Nebraska and many other states, Bank Shot seems to require skill:
The makers of the machine [say] that it is a game of skill that is no different from a game of Trivial Pursuit or a dart tournament sponsored by a bar or tavern. They also argue that the video game was carefully constructed to comply with Nebraska law...
The difficulty for law enforcement is in determining when a game requires more chance than skill, or more skill than chance.
Players can bet from $0.25 to $4 per game. To date, the largest jackpot has been $17,000:
The game centers on nine pool balls arranged in a grid formation. The player pushes a button that starts the balls flashing quickly in various formations. The player then pushes “stop” on a particular pattern, which helps to determine whether or not a player wins.
There are 30,000 patterns of pool balls built into the game. About 27 patterns flash in a given minute... players become more skillful at spotting the winning patterns after playing the game for a period of time...
Nebraska law enforcement officials are hoping that the state legislature will provide guidance on the issue.