The new feature was launched as regulators grapple with whether in-game wagers should be treated as gambling. In GTA Online, players can buy in-game “dollars” with real currency, and then convert their virtual dollars to gambling chips.
The game is rated for ages 18 and over, but remains popular among young teens. The in-game currency can be used to acquire cars, weapons, and cosmetic items – and used to play slot machines, roulette, or poker. Some players reported that while they could walk around the casino area, the gambling tables were blocked in their country where gambling is illegal.
Gamers had mixed reactions to the discovery that gambling chips can be purchased with real cash. The online mode was launched as an add-on to the popular game in 2013, and has always allowed players to top-up their in-game wallets with real money.
The conversion rate in 2019 is roughly GTA$500,000 for £5.99 – with discounts for higher amounts purchased. There is also a limit on how many chips can be bought every hour in the new casino.
But the fact that in-game gambling winnings cannot easily be converted back into real-world cash may be a key distinction for regulators.
The UK gambling watchdog told MPs on Monday that it does not oversee the purchase of in-game content – like video game loot boxes – because there is no official way to monetise the winnings.