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PEGI Rating For Gambling Descriptor Is Now Always 18+

Update – Tuesday 1st September 2021, 4:50pm

Following the publication of this piece PEGI has clarified that older games with simulated gambling elements will retain their age rating if re-released, provided that the game is not upgraded, modernised, re-interpreted or altered in any other way that would lead it to be interpreted as a new game. This means games that were historically rated as PEGI 12 will maintain that rating if it is put on the market again in the same form.

Updated PEGI criteria for gambling ensures any new game that includes elements that encourage or teach gambling are now rated PEGI 18.

PEGI ratings are applied to games based on criteria that specify what sorts of content in different areas require specific age ratings. A game may receive a rating for Violence, Bad language, Fear, Sex, Drugs or Gambling. Any one of these criteria can trigger the age rating increasing for a game. You can see which areas a game is rated for by the descriptor logos and text displayed on game boxes and digital storefronts.

Over the years the criteria evolve to match the changing landscape of video game content.  Most recently we have seen an increase in the age rating for games that "contain elements that encourage or teach gambling".

Previously, you may have seen these games rated at the PEGI 12 or PEGI 16 level. But since 2020, any game that includes elements that encourage or teach gambling received a PEGI 18 age rating.

An example is Overboard. This is a murder mystery game where the twist is that you are the murderer trying to fool people into thinking you are innocent. The game is a text adventure with some illustrations and includes "Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes and Use of Alcohol" at the PEGI 12 level. 

However, because there is a scene where you can play blackjack with another character the game is rated PEGI 18 for Gambling. It's also worth noting that because the other elements aren't at the PEGI 18 level they are not included as descriptor logos.

This was explained by a VSC Game Rating Board spokesperson. "The purpose of the descriptors is to explain the issues that led to the rating in question, rather than to highlight all content that’s present in a game, it’s inevitable that raising a rating will lead to the loss of any descriptors that relate to material that would have been acceptable at a lower rating."

The result is that parents and carers can be confident that any new game published where you can partake in recognisable real-world gambling will be rated PEGI 18.   

The VSC expanded on how these changes work. "In 2020, the PEGI criteria were changed so that, in future, any games featuring moving images that “teach and/or glamorise the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling” will be rated PEGI 18."

"This refers to types of betting or gambling for money that is normally played or carried out in casinos, gambling halls, or racetracks. It does not cover games where betting or gambling is simply part of the general storyline. The game must actually teach the player how to gamble or bet and/or glamorise gambling. For example, this will include games that teach the player how to play card games that are usually played for money or how to play the odds in horse racing."

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Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.