Is The Grand Theft Auto Online Casino Real Or Pretend Gambling?

Written By Grant Lucas on August 2, 2019 - Last Updated on March 7, 2022

Few video game franchises have excelled quite like Grand Theft Auto. Since its debut game hit the market in 1997, it has enjoyed nearly 300 million units in sales.

Integrating an online side of the game only heightened public interest in Grand Theft Auto. Now, GTA is taking it one step further.

Introducing Diamond Casino & Resort, open and live within Grand Theft Auto Online, the multiplayer online mode of Grand Theft Auto V.

The online casino (well, the virtual brick-and-mortar casino in southern San Andreas) offers players a variety of games with chances at earning GTA currency and prizes. Players spend this virtual money within the casino, but they can also purchase in-game currency with real money.

That last feature creates a problem for many. In fact, it appears laws in more than 50 countries prevent players in those areas from visiting the casino, which was integrated via an update in late July.

What to play at Grand Theft Auto casino

Little imagination is needed to picture what the Diamond Casino & Resort looks like. Players face an array of standard casino games, including:

  • Roulette
  • Blackjack
  • Three-card poker
  • Slots

The slot machines feature themes drawn from the GTA world.

In addition, players can hit the Inside Track to place a wager or two on virtual horse racing.

On top of it all, the casino’s Lucky Wheel gives players an opportunity to spin for casino chips, in-game currency and other prizes.

Gambling laws prevent access to Grand Theft Auto casino

Certainly, Grand Theft Auto Online has played a significant role in the growth of Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games. Company chairman Straus Zelnick told Variety last year that Grand Theft Auto V and GTA Online “stands alone as a standard-bearer for our games and the industry.”

Yet, gambling — an ever-expanding industry that has grasped the attention of state lawmakers across the country — remains an issue when integrated with video games.

Soon after the Diamond Casino & Resort opened, for example, users began sharing their inabilities to enter the virtual property.

It turns out, regional laws restrict gambling of this kind. Thus, users cannot take part.

Obviously, countries such as the US, Western Europe and Japan have not banned such access. A Reddit thread, however, outlines some 50 countries (including China, North Korea, Argentina and Portugal) with gambling laws that prevent users from entering the GTA casino.

Should gambling within games played by minors be illegal?

The Grand Theft Auto casino takes in-game currency, not real money, that is earned during the game. However, users can spend real money to obtain virtual cash to spend at the casino.

This is where the conversation of loot boxes enters the picture.

Many video games incorporate “loot boxes,” items users can purchase and include any number of rewards that can be used in a respective game.

Lawmakers have gone on the attack to ban the sale of loot boxes, including Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who introduced legislation to crack down on such microtransactions. In a statement on his website, he said:

“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices.”

Hawley added that kids playing games “designed for adults … should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions.”

“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. … Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”

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More video games incorporating gambling

The debate about the union of gambling and video games isn’t going away anytime soon.

Grand Theft Auto is certainly not the first video game to integrate gambling, though it certainly adds to existing video games that have merged the gaming and gambling worlds over the years.

Red Dead Redemption 2

The initial Red Dead Redemption already featured gambling, what with players having the option to sit in on poker as well as a game called Liar’s Dice.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, the game makers (Rockstar Games, which also produced GTA) continued that trend.

Players can take part in games of poker and blackjack. Liar’s Dice also makes a reappearance.

The game also boasts several nontraditional games, such as the backyard classic horseshoes. Additionally, take a stab at Five Finger Fillet (in which players attempt to stab a knife between their outstretched fingers) or have a go at arm wrestling.

Super Mario 64

Step off the way-back machine to this 2004 reimagining of the 1996 original.

The Nintendo DS game includes Luigi’s Casino, which features standard casino games such as roulette and blackjack.

Mushroom Kingdom-themed slots are also included in this casino, which purely exists for entertainment purposes. It does not require or even provide an option for players spending real money to participate.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Interestingly, The Witcher makes a poker-style game a part of its overall gameplay.

While not really “gambling,” the game, Gwent, involves players finding cards and building a strong deck that helped them complete side quests.

Essentially a mini-challenge, Gwent appeals to poker players looking to play cards while moving along the game’s storyline.

Final Fantasy VIII

Like Red Dead Redemption 2, Final Fantasy brings forth a not-so-traditional area of gambling.

The mini-card game Triple Triad is played on a grid and with cards featuring four numbers, each corresponding to one side of the card. Using color-coded cards, players place cards on empty spaces on the board before being compared with cards of opponents.

The player with the highest card number wins, and that player’s designated color takes the spot.

Fallout New Vegas

How can a game with the name “Vegas” in it not incorporate gambling?

The post-apocalyptic world of Las Vegas is the setting, obviously including its casinos.

Six properties offer games such as blackjack, roulette and slots. Some casinos carry better blackjack odds than others, including 3:2 at both Gomorrah and The Tops and 6:5 at the Atomic Wrangler.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

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