Vanaf vandaag 11 uur zendt de BBC de eerste aflevering van een
radioreportage serie uit over de online gokindustrie vanaf Curaçao.
The Gamble Network | Producer: Jolyon Jenkins
Over three programmes, Jolyon Jenkins explores whether children are being enticed into gambling through video game “loot boxes”, and how an apparently harmless bit of fun has links that stretch all the way across the world and involve a small Caribbean island which has seen gambling-related murder and high level corruption.
Loot boxes are a feature of games in which you pay to open random packs or crates of virtual items, some of which are rare and desirable. In some cases, these items can be traded for cash, either on the manufacturer’s own platform or through third party sites. Because the virtual items are kind of virtual parallel currency, they represent an easy way for children to gamble, and in some cases children have lost large sums.
We also see a proliferation of straight up gambling sites that use virtual items interchangeably with cryptocurrency, and with no age verification checks.
But there is also evidence that, even where the virtual items cannot be “cashed out”, the experience of buying loot boxes is associated with problem gambling. This evidence suggests that either games companies are causing people (largely children) to get a problem gambling habit, or those who already have a problem with gambling are being drawn to video games where their habit is fed.
The UK Gambling Commission doesn’t consider loot boxes to be covered by gambling law. But is this the wrong question? Maybe the issue is not whether loot boxes are technically gambling, but if they are causing harm.
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Aflevering 24 juli 2019 : The Gamble Network: The Loot Box scandal
Aflevering 31 juli 2019: The Gamble Network: Spin till you win
An illegal gambling website approached Jolyon Jenkins’s teenage son to make a Youtube video promoting it. They promised to rig it so he would definitely win.
The site was a loot box site with a difference. Instead of virtual items to be used in video games, it offered real world prizes like gaming consoles, smartphones and hoverboards. The loot box experience has become so familiar to youngsters from gaming that sites like this are a natural extension. It’s clearly a form of gambling and is covered by UK gambling law. The website in question needed, but didn’t have, a licence from the UK Gambling Commission. It has promoted itself to youngsters via young Youtube “influencers”. Presenter Jolyon Jenkins’s 17 year old son is himself a successful Youtuber. He was approached by the website to make a video promoting them. They wanted to commission him to make a misleading video that showed him winning as if by chance, even though he was told that they would carry on topping up his funds until he was successful. “You spin till you win”, they said. He agreed to go along with this and ended up “winning” some expensive items. The company was aware he was under 18 but said this didn’t matter.
The UK Gambling Commission gave contradictory advice about the site, raising the question of whether it is up to speed with this new kind of gambling; and trying to find out who owned, operated, and licensed the company took Jenkins to Spain, Ireland, and ultimately – in the next programme – the Caribbean.
Presenter/Producer: Jolyon Jenkins
Aflevering 7 augustus 2019: The Gamble Network: How gambling interests bought a country
The trail leads us to Curacao, a small island off the coast of Venezuela. This is where many of the offshore gambling sites that at least turn a blind eye to under-age gambling are licensed.
These Curacao licences have no validity in the UK, but they do allow operators to open bank accounts. According to the US State Department, Curacao is a major route for money laundering of drugs money from Latin America, with online gambling being one of the methods used. But who issues the licences? The plot thickens as it turns out that the licensing system is of doubtful legality, and could have been designed to encourage political corruption. In fact, we discover, one of Curacao’s top politicians was assassinated a few days after threatening to blow the gaff on online gambling. The first prime minister of the newly autonomous island was jailed for political corruption, after it was shown that he had laundered money received by a major gambling operator alleged by the Italian police to have mafia connections.
So it appears that from the outset, organised crime set out to buy an island to facilitate gambling and drug money laundering. Could it be that the gambling your child is doing with video games is ultimately connected to organised crime and murder on the other side of the world?
Presenter/Producer: Jolyon Jenkins