Grand Theft Auto Online‘s casino might be the biggest update to come to the game in some time – but it’s not free of controversy.
While many of GTA Online‘s fans are enjoying a new way to make money and spend their time, it raises many questions – especially at a time when gambling in games and loot boxes are under heavy scrutiny. Is it gambling, in the way a real online casino such as Betsafe CA is, or is it simply a bit of fun?
It’s an argument that nobody can, or likely will, agree on. After all, it’s gambling in a videogame in the most obvious sense. And while you’re gambling with in-game credit, GTA credit can be bought with real money in the form of ‘Shark cards’, so the line becomes even more blurred. As a result, GTA Online‘s casino, The Diamond Casino & Resort, has been banned in over 50 countries. Yikes.
The launch of the Diamond Casino went well on the face of it, leading to a big boost in players – and more importantly, player spending. Following the update, there was a 23% rise in player spending, setting a new record for the game since its launch way back in 2013.
It’s not surprising, considering that GTA Online‘s casino offers a brand new range of activities for long-time players to enjoy. Like a real-life casino, players will find roulette tables, blackjack, poker tables and slot machines, among others. There’s also a lucky wheel, offering a free daily spin to everyone who visits. Outside of the main casino, the Diamond Resort offers up meeting places, a spa area and a fancy master penthouse, complete with a rooftop infinity pool. Ah, if only it was real, right?
This record response to the Diamond Casino and Resort naturally suggested it was a big hit with fans of the game. But the response has not all been positive.
The Possibility of Addiction
Before gambling in the GTA Online casino, players must turn their in-game money into chips. Those chips can then only be used in the casino, and prizes such as in-game cash or exclusive items are on offer. Any winnings strictly stay in the game: outside of the world of Grand Theft Auto Online, there’s no real-life reward for playing in the casino.
Yet GTA Online‘s casino mimics the real-life betting that takes place in a casino. It’s designed to get people hooked on the notion of winning a price; designed to get players to pour more and more money into it. On its launch back in the summer, numerous players reported being “addicted” to the casino, and many had lost all their in-game wealth within hours.
The game’s developer, Rockstar, implemented a limit on the amount of casino chips that can be bought every hour, and put systems in place to stop players buying casino chips directly with Shark Cards (bought with real money). But is it enough?
Gambling in games remains a concern
Numerous countries obviously see GTA Online‘s casino as a problem, which is why casino games have been disabled in those territories. But other countries – including the UK – let it slide; the fact that no real-world prizes can be won means it remains safely in the realms gaming, or ‘just for fun’.
While it’s been six years in development, Rockstar’s decision to launch GTA Online’s casino in 2019, when gambling and loot boxes in games are more controversial than ever, feels a bit brazen. Almost as if it wants to make a statement by putting a literal house of gambling in its game. But while ever a law deems it not to be a true form of gambling, videogames companies are going to use whatever means they can to draw in extra revenue to their games. And while ever it remains so popular with fans, can you really blame them?