Online Gambling: Will Virgin Gaming Benefit?

Online Gambling: Will Virgin Gaming Benefit?

Need some quick cash? Why not let Virgin and EA help you bet your college money on a quick game of Madden NFL 11 for the PS3 or Xbox 360?

Okay, don’t do that. But you can do it, theoretically. If, y’know, you want to. After you’ve acknowledged and obeyed a few rules.

Virgin Gaming, a Toronto-based division of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, has signed a deal with EA to let fans of Madden NFL and FIFA place electronic wagers on on-line tournaments. Once players put down their wager and start to play, they’re tracked by Virgin to make sure no cheating occurs. The winner can walk away with a purse of tens of thousands of dollars.

So far, Virgin only allows for organized tournaments that are arranged to resemble online poker tournaments: Players can buy into a tournament and play through it until one winner is crowned the champion. There are also tournaments sponsored by outside companies, including a recent tourney funded by Maxim magazine. Soon enough, Virgin will open up a game-by-game system that will let players form their own tournaments.

Will organized video game-based gambling prove to be a profitable venture for Virgin?

That’s not even worth asking. Gambling is a big business. Huge. Even when serfs were barred from learning how to read and write, they were sharp gamblers. Billions of dollars change hands in everything from organized poker tournaments to fantasy football leagues. The real question is: What took so long for Virgin, EA, or anyone to implement a universal system for video game gambling? With the billions of dollars that flow through online poker tournaments every year, why didn’t a dollar sign light up over Sir Richard Branson’s head years ago?

Doubtlessly, part of the reason has naught to do with worries over lost profits and everything to do with nightmares pertaining to gambling laws and chasing away minors with a big stick. Poker is thought of as a pastime for adults. Video games, however, are regarded as a “safe” pastime for kids even though it commands an enormous adult audience, too. Some parent groups already harass video game developers for causing childhood obesity and triggering violent impulses; imagine the uproar that will occur when (not if, when) minors worm their way into a Madden NFL tournament and run up their parents’ credit card (even though Virgin has limits on how much a player can automatically bet in a week’s time). Presumably, Virgin will have many checks in place to ensure that everyone who gambles is of-age, but no security is perfect.

Then there’s the controversy of gaming “addiction.” Adults and children who have trouble managing the time they spend on video games are labeled as addicts. Adults who have trouble managing their time–and money–on gambling pursuits are likewise labeled as addicts. If the two are combined, it will provide a perfect two-headed scapegoat for friends and family who are at a loss as to how they should deal with their loved ones’ vices.

These are all huge inconveniences for Virgin, no doubt, to say nothing of dealing with State and Provincial gambling laws. But with the huge amounts of money this venture stands to rake in, Sir Richard Branson will probably be able to put it out of his head long enough to get some rest on his mattress stuffed with thousand dollar bills.

(Picture Source)

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. > addiction

    Problem gambling is called an impulse control disorder. Look it up.

    Gaming is not addicting it is compelling. Games can be made to be more specifically compelling than say riding a bike, reading a book, or doing anything else which you want to keep on doing, but it’s still not possible to get addicted to games. The people who play games to the point where they damage their quality of life probably have other things they do which could be classified as being impulse control disorders.

    I really do not like gambling or pseudo-gambling where the only things you win are in game items (such as the crates in Team Fortress 2) but you still spend real money to try and get them.

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