Roblox–the widely popular online gaming platform, has been hit with a substantial class action lawsuit accusing the company of enabling an illicit gambling network that targets minors.
The lawsuit alleges that Roblox's digital currency, known as ‘Robux’, has been misused for gambling purposes. Users under the age of 18 can utilise Robux bought with their parents' credit card, with each unit having an actual monetary value.
The plaintiffs assert that Roblox's terms of service, which supposedly prohibit simulated gambling, are contradicted by the platform's allowance of third-party gambling sites to accept bets in Robux.
The gambling sites named in the lawsuit are Satozuki Limited B.V., Studs Entertainment Ltd., and RBLXWild Entertainment LLC
Roblox is also accused of profiting from the scheme through a 30% fee on the conversion of Robux back into real currency. The claim is that the company is making millions annually from these fees, and hasn't taken action in spite of being aware of the the existence of these gambling platforms.
The plantiffs claim that the gambling sites incentivise minors to promote their platforms, offering rewards such as free Robux for promoting the sites on platforms like TikTok.
Roblox has responded to the accusations, stating that these third-party sites operate without any legal affiliation with the company and are infringing on Roblox's intellectual property and branding. The company has vowed to remain vigilant in ensuring its platform's safety and adherence to policies.
Brands like AIA, H&M, Givenchy and Samsung have launched activations in Roblox. The ‘AIA Arena’ is all about health, energy and community, with an aim to engage a younger audience in a way that is core to its purpose, not commerce.
Meanwhile, Samsung used CharliXCX for a metaverse concert in Roblox and Givenchy built a Beauty House to allow visitors to immerse themselves within a magic kingdom filled with cityscapes, dance floors, and even a castle inspired by the home of the brand’s late founder, Hubert de Givenchy.
Kirra Pendergast, the founder and chief executive officer of Safe on Social Group tells Campaign while education is a powerful tool, expecting it to reach every child and parent is unrealistic. She says the allegations against Roblox highlight the urgent need for stricter regulations.
"It is crucial to understand that these are not just games, but virtual environments where real-world consequences can occur," explains Pendergast, who is also a youth safety advisor to gaming platform TotallyAwesome.
"Brands venturing into using Roblox for marketing to young people should also be working with and seeking advice from partners and providers deeply versed in youth online trust and safety."
Pendergast urges platforms like Roblox and many others that cater to children to prioritise child safety. She notes the term "playing" in the context of online games like Roblox trivialises the potential risks associated with online gaming and social media.
She notes gambling, sexualised content and violence are on the increase. The term "play" holds profound significance because it is a fundamental and innate behaviour observed across human development.
According to Pendergast, play is a way for children to explore their environment, understand social dynamics, experiment with roles, and process emotions.
"Through play, we develop cognitive, physical, and social skills and learn to navigate the complexities of the world around us as children. When we are discussing metaverse games like Roblox it is extremely important that we reframe the conversation and emphasise that online activities are like "visiting a place," we can instil a sense of caution and awareness in children and their parents," explains Pendergast.
"The analogy of "visiting a place" is apt because, like any other place, there are safe and unsafe areas, and children are taught to be cautious and aware of their surroundings. If a child was encouraged to gamble or lay down next to someone they did not know in real life they would know that it is not ok. Online it is very, very blurry. Children see their online life as an extension of their physical life. To them it is just life."
Pendergast concludes: "Online platforms offer numerous benefits and opportunities for learning and social interaction, they also come with risks. It's the collective responsibility of platform providers and governments and parents to keep children safe."