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Tuesday, 03 July 2012 08:00

Runescape is Marketing Online Casino Games to Kids, Say Critics

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The owners of a fantasy MMORPG are being accused of promoting online gambling.

Runescape, a long-running fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game, is under fire for its 'new direction', which critics say markets online casino games towards children.

The game, which takes place in Gielinor and involves players travelling through the world and completing a number of quests, recently launched a feature called 'Squeal of Fortune' which allows a player to buy spins to win prizes that will assist with gameplay.

The process of paying real cash to play games that will not pay out real money is much like social network-based games developed by Zynga and Buffalo, where players can buy credits to play casino games that won't ever pay out the winnings. But unlike in real casinos, there are no safeguards in place to prevent underage gambling and no independent testing of software.

Much of the ire about the Squeal of Fortune feature is to do with the change in the terms and conditions of Runescape's owners, Jagex. The company has ensured that it is not liable if a player uses someone else's credit card details to play, and critics say the fact that these changes occurred at the same time that Jagex launched Squeal of Fortune indicate that the company expects children to use their parents' credit cards.

'[Squeal of Fortune is] marketing aimed at habituating and incentivising gambling, directly aimed at kids', says one outspoken opponent and longtime player of Runescape, Jakob Gamertsfelder.