Over here in the UK, we just love making videogames illegal. It’s one of our favorite things to do in the world, ranking right below drinking tea and being apathetic. Next up in the legal shooting gallery are MMOs, but thankfully, this time the reason is at least a bit more logical than usual.
Come September, the UK will round off the current updates to its Gambling Act with some new provisions for online gambling, but given the way the Act defines said activity, some videogames are going to be affected as well. As Alex Chapman of legal firm Campbell Hooper explains:
This is because the new law creates a new single definition for ‘Gambling’, which includes playing a game of chance for a prize, and makes it a criminal offence to provide facilities for gambling without having and complying with an operators licence.
This arguably puts the marketplaces in MMOGs such as Station Exchange in Everquest in the firing line, and makes the products sold through them “prizes” – since they have a monetary worth.
The situation comes about because the Act defines a game of chance as any game involving chance and skill, or in which skill can help to eliminate chance, thus pretty much covering all videogames, with the definition of “prizes” acknowledging the existence of virtual goods as well as physical ones.
Right now, MMO operators are being advised to start considering the new guidelines very seriously and begin applying for licenses. Under the new laws, all companies running games to which the rules are applicable have to ensure fair gambling, make sure children and other vulnerable groups are protected, and do whatever is in their power to prevent gambling-related crime. How these issues are going to be tackled in MMOs remains to be seen, but tackled they will have to be if we’re not going to see more unneeded controversy in the coming months.
But what do you think? Is it fair that videogames with prizes are being grouped in with the likes of poker and sports betting? Or do they work in a sufficiently different way so as to sidestep the definition?