Rockstar, the makers of the extremely popular video game franchises Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, have brought a virtual gambling element into one of its games. Players of Grand Theft Auto V (the fifth and most recent game in the series) can now gamble with virtual (but purchasable) chips at the Diamond Casino and Resort – a fabulously detailed in-game land-based-style casino and hotel complex. It has been welcomed by many players after roughly six years of continuous rumours about the new feature have finally come true.
Nevertheless, it’s a controversial move on the part of Scottish company Rockstar, particularly because the game is played by many people under the age of 18 – this has led some commentators to say that the game’s new features are not appropriate for the audience who plays the game regardless of the 18+ certificate carried on the cover of the game itself. Nevertheless, whether it encourages gambling among teenagers or not is still a matter that’s up for debate, as the mechanism does not allow players to cash out any winnings in dollars.
Players who manage to find the Diamond Casino and Resort on the GTA V map could previously explore the virtual venue but have so far only been allowed to watch proceedings. And it must be noted that players based in countries where gambling is illegal will find that the casino tables and slot machines are blocked off, so they are unable to participate in the virtual gambling games. The latest update to the game, however, now enables players in many countries around the world (including Canada) to purchase in-game ‘dollars’ with their own money which can then be traded for virtual chips to use at the tables or the slot machines.
Players have always been allowed to purchase in-game extras since the online mode was launched in 2013. This of course has led to players spending real money on special cars, weapons and cosmetic items to improve their character’s appearance in a variety of ways. With the new update, players can use their virtual cash and chips to play blackjack, roulette, poker, slots and video horse racing – all within the game itself. They can even refurbish their casino resort penthouse suites with additional furniture and other interior design flourishes.
The conversion rate as of 2019 is roughly C$10 for GTA$500,000 (the GTA dollars being the in-game currency). So, getting a taste of the virtual casino action doesn’t have to come at a steep price. Nevertheless, this has sent alarm bells ringing in some gambling authorities.
In the UK, for example, the gambling watchdog of that country has called into question the use of loot boxes for games aimed at young video game players, arguing that it is in itself a form of gambling. Loot boxes are random chance elements that may or may not award fantastic in-game features when a player deposits money within the video game. The fact that there’s a chance that you could end up with a haul of virtual tatt rather than being able to directly purchase the in-game items you want is why the authorities are calling it a form of gambling.
Furthermore, a black market when players exchange or sell items purchased in video games such as FIFA 19 and Counter-Strike has lead to increasing concerns for young players entering this criminal world. In fact, it’s considered a grey area that is hard to fully control. Thankfully, the new GTA V features are locked to players’ account, so that trading such items is impossible.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as many players of a legal age where gambling is legitimate in the eyes of the law have called the new features a welcome addition. There are also a bunch of new missions, characters and side quests focused on the new Diamond Casino and Resort location, so there are even more elements of the game for players to explore.