The law on gambling is pretty clear-cut: you must be at least 18 to play and the provider of the service must hold an operating license. But what about video games that let your character bet? What’s that classified as – toy gambling? Wagering by proxy?
Admittedly you can count on two hands the number of games that have gambling mini-games built in. But with sprawling titles like GTA conjuring increasingly real and anarchic worlds, it won’t be long till you can do pretty much everything you can in the real world with absolute impunity.
Not only can you rob, pimp and kill, but you can gamble without a license and, if you don’t like the cut of your dealer’s jib, you can eschew flipping them a chip for opening a clip on them as you exit the casino in a hail of bullets. Obviously, we’re not saying that’s how you should play. We’re just saying you could. If you really wanted to. With advances in VR set to blur the thin line separating fantasy and reality, it won’t be long until we’re looking back at the quaint gambling games built into today’s video games and chuckling.
For now though, the following games are as close as you can get to playing at a virtual casino without, you know, playing at a virtual casino.
Fallout: New Vegas
While many punters celebrate Las Vegas as the world’s casino heartland, others hate everything it stands for and can’t wait till the last casino operator leaves, the place turns into a post-apocalyptic ghost town where zombies fight over the last of the free mimosas and poker chips blow like tumbleweed along the deserted streets.
That’s pretty much the plot of Fallout: New Vegas as it happens, which includes dilapidated casinos where players can spin slots and dabble in blackjack and roulette. Swap caps, the in-game currency, for NCR Dollars or Legion Coins and fritter your virtual fortune away. The higher your luck levels, the better you’ll fare.
Read Dead Redemption
One of the most famous entrants on this list, Read Dead Redemption is set in the Wild West, where illicit gambling dens were the least of the sheriff’s problems. If you’re gonna mosey way out west, too right you’re gonna play some cards.
Although intended as a mini-game, some players got really into Red Dead Redemption’s poker. So much so that entire message boards were devoted to strategy and identifying tells in your fellow players.
Play for profit or play for the banter, which is as colourful in Red Dead Redemption as the rest of this characterful game.
The Sims 3
Sims can do anything that their human operators can do – they can even ‘woo-hoo’, to use the beautifully euphemistic term EA has popularised for, ahem, woo-hooing.
Can you bet in The Sims? Too right you can. Acquire The Lucky Simoleon Casino as premium content and you can make your Sims fritter their fortune away at the blackjack table, slot machines, poker and roulette.
Or you could just make your Sim super lucky and watch them clean up at the casino. How come no one’s invented a lucky mod for real life yet?
Poker is a game that transcends borders, nations, species and formats. From aliens to zombies, it’s amazing the lifeforms that appear to have picked up a rudimentary grasp of poker.
A version of the classic casino game appeared in both The Witcher 1 and 2, with dice poker being described as an “addictive game played throughout the continent”.
The game must have been deemed too addictive, for by the time The Witcher 3 was released, dice poker had been replaced by Gwent, a card-based game that was supposedly invented by dwarfs, but which human players swiftly took a shine to, fuelling an entire Gwent subcommunity.
GTA: San Andreas
No article about casino action in video games would be complete without hailing the original and best, the franchise that’s been celebrating vice in all its multifarious forms since day one.
Of course you can gamble in GTA. In fact gambling is one of the more civil things your character can do. Vice City allowed players to bet on horses but it was San Andreas that introduced fully fledged casinos.
With certain casino games off-limits until you’ve attained a certain skill level, there’s every incentive to keep gambling until you level up and can access the full suite of games. It wouldn’t be GTA without a darker side though, and sure enough, players who run up huge casino debts might find themselves being pursued by hitmen.
With rumours of a casino mod coming to Grand Theft Auto Online, it seems likely that we haven’t seen the last of betting in GTA. Due to the realism of games like GTA V, we’re reaching a stage now where it’s been said that it’s theoretically possible for a player to develop a gambling addiction through video games. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, it’s possible for a player to become a poker professional through skills they acquired from video games.
These five aren’t the only games that have gambling mini-games built in incidentally. From Far Cry 3 to Dead Rising 3, where there are video games there are casino games that you can play. How long now until we wind up with video games with built-in gambling games that let you play gambling games modelled on video games? #Meta.
The view expressed in this article are those of the author and are in no way the same as those held by Casinopedia.
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