With the release of Grand Theft Auto Online’s new casino update, Los Santos denizens now have a new go-to joke. Many players are saying they’re gaining digital gambling addictions, and are getting hooked on everything from blackjack to horse racing. Some even say they’re losing all their in-game money participating in the new activities.
To be clear, much of the chatter online from fans actually playing the new content is positive — folks like that they can jump into the new stuff without needing to be rich. So when people say they’re getting “addicted,” they mostly seem to mean it in a positive way. For GTA Online, the ease of entry is a change of pace: Generally, fans complain that it takes a lot of money or time to enjoy new additions to the game.
The Casino DLC, on the other hand, lowers the price of entry, literally and metaphorically.
“A player at any level can walk in and buy any small amount of chips,” said Zack Zwiezen, GTA Online expert (and former colleague) on Twitter. “Even just 500 chips or so with a little pocket change. They can then sit down and gamble and have fun for an hour and maybe win some GTA$.
Something that I find interesting is that most folks worrying about GTA Online's casino and how exploitative it might be don't realize how nice it is compared to other parts of the game.— Zack Zwiezen (@ZwiezenZ) July 26, 2019
“Compare this to the usual way updates work in GTA Online,” he continued. “Players would need to drop millions on new expensive buildings, to then grind for hours and days to earn more money to buy new expensive cars. And this content was locked behind needing friends to help and grinding.”
Lowering the gates like this seems to have helped GTA Online tremendously this week. For about 48 hours after the casino was added, some players were reporting connection issues and difficulty hopping into matches, as the player numbers seemed to swell. But now that the dust has settled, people say they’re having a great time.
Although some are apparently losing it all in the process.
Losing it all, and sharing the pain
“GTA 5 got me going broke in game because I’m having trash luck in the casino,” one player said on Twitter.
“Theres a whole ass casino update on GTA 5 and I literally became broke in two hrs,” another added.
“Fam the casino in GTA 5 is a scam lmao,” another said. “I spent 50 racks in like 20 mins. Never felt so broke before. In real life and fake life. Sheesh. This game getting way too realistic.”
“GTA added a casino and now my character is broke,” one said. “The game actually stopped me from buying more chips.”
“My BF is addicted to the casino on GTA, so much so he has just frantically sped to a ATM to withdraw 100k, only to be told he has spent his daily limit on return,” said an onlooker on Twitter. “Thank god this ain’t real!”
“I HAVE NOTHING LEFT,” reads a top-voted screenshot on the GTA Online subreddit. Actually, the subreddit is full of memes where people commiserate over losing vast amounts of digital money in the casino.
Given that the Casino DLC mimics gambling and players can technically buy Shark Cards with real-world money, discussions around the morality of this addition are cropping up on the web.
These conversations are partially spurred by growing concerns around exploitative practices in the video game industry, such as loot boxes. It brings into question the motivations behind making GTA’s casino easier to play: If more people are getting through the door, will a higher number of people feel incentivized to drop money once their in-game dollars runs out? Based on conversations I’ve had with a number of players and posts on social media, it doesn’t seem like the majority of players are dropping real cash on this aspect of the game, but only Rockstar knows for sure.
But we also know that, when it comes to video game monetization, many games rely on the concept of “whales” — a small percentage of folks who spend an exorbitant amount compared to the average player. If most players aren’t aiding their in-game play with real-world money, it doesn’t necessarily paint a complete picture of whether or not GTA Online’s casino poses a problem for at-risk players.
Of course, GTA Online is hardly the first game to implement some kind of virtual gambling. But it is one of the most high-profile mainstream games to do so while allowing the use of real-world money, leading to the increased scrutiny.
Whatever the case, given that GTA Online is a video game and not an actual casino, players are doing their best to game the system. One popular tactic, for instance, has players cheesing the lucky wheel for multiple spins. Others are simply sharing tips on how to properly play games like blackjack.
Some, it should be noted, are having great luck. But most people are learning the age-old axiom that the house always wins, which means that the casino is feeling kind of rigged for some participants. Fans swear that the game is actively cheating against them, given how often dealers seem to one-up amazing hands.
“I think I’m getting addicted to gambling on GTA Online ... I guess it’s better than getting addicted IRL,” one player noted on Twitter.