Gaming And Gambling Mix In Japan


23rd September, 2012 at 02:21:27

Does playing dice for virtual currency within a social game constitute illegal gambling?

Diametrically opposed opinions have surfaced in Japan regarding 'games within games' in the huge social gaming sector in that country.

Fears that under aged players are being prematurely sucked in to gambling through involvement in social gaming have been voiced in Japan before (see previous reports) but this week the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun resurrected the argument, basing its story on the massively popular "Dragon Quest X" game, in which players can get together online and play games of dice within the main game, wagering with virtual currency.

Apparently for some it's a quicker way to amass a virtual fortune than by slogging through different skill levels.

Questions have been raised over the legality of the dice games, since winnings can be exchanged for real money elsewhere on the Internet through real money trade (RMT) websites. These sites have been widely available for about 10 years, and are used by a large number of online gamers. The RMT market is estimated to be worth at least 10 billion yen, but is not regulated by law.

One set of opinions is that this convertibility turns the play gambling during the game into unauthorised betting, which is prohibited by the Penal Code.

According to a website that tracks RMT prices, the amount of virtual currency trading for "Dragon Quest X" in the past 30 days has far outstripped that in all other online games, surpassing the second-place game by a factor of about 2.6.

Such popularity caught the attention of legal experts, who expressed concern that the practice could constitute illegal gambling if virtual currency earned by dicing was cashed in for real money.

An official of Square Enix Co., the maker of "Dragon Quest X," challenged the idea that playing dice games within the main game was illegal, saying: "Players are exchanging virtual currency only within the confines of the game. It's still within the range of play."

"Virtual currency used inside online games has no economic value. It isn't subject to gambling charges," said another game industry source.

Legal opinions differ, claiming: "Since there are cash-out systems, it's possible that the trading of virtual currencies could constitute gambling."

Takashi Kiso, president of the International Casino Institute, compared the RMT system to pachinko, in which players exchange prizes for cash at trading places outside pachinko parlours. The main difference, he said, is that the amusement business control law prohibits people under 18 from entering pachinko parlours.

"Since a large number of primary and middle school students play 'Dragon Quest X,' the situation appears to be problematic from an educational viewpoint," Kiso said.

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