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  • The GTA V Online Casino Finally Launches!

    Grand Theft Auto V has been a hype-fest ever since the gaming community got wind of its release prior to September 2013. Everyone was excited to see what the developers, Rockstar, would do as the Grand Theft Auto series continued to improve with each new instalment. Before launch, we learned that instead of one protagonist, we’d be getting three playable main characters as well as be able to roam around their largest map to date. Everyone able to buy the 18-rated game was hyped for its release, and then, after launch, they all indulged in the free-roam around the fictitious area of Los Santos as well as the superb story.

    Grand Theft Auto V was one of the most highly anticipated games of this decade, and despite the trailer not showing much and being released in 2011, it still racked up over 58 million views on YouTube.
    But the excitement was set to continue post-campaign, with the online multiplayer game mode Grand Theft Auto Online launching two weeks after the game’s release. At first, it was a mess. Many people struggled to get into the game mode when it was first opened due to the huge number of players trying to get online to play. The game mode was also relatively sparse, with the highly anticipated chance to perform heists online with friends not being an option from day one. Eventually, Rockstar ironed out the issues with GTA Online, going on to add a heists mode in March 2015.
    Through continued updates such as this, GTA V has remained relevant – almost entirely due to its online play – clocking in as the best-selling entertainment product of all-time across all mediums in November 2018, generating $6 billion in sales of units and most likely in-game microtransactions. Ever since passing this whopping milestone last year and following the release of another Rockstar game, Red Dead Redemption 2, the developers have continued to add free updates to the game, with the most recent even eclipsing the popularity of the long-awaited heists.

    The Diamond Casino & Resort is open for business!

    Alluding to the story while showing flashes of card games, slot machines, and prizes, the trailer for The Diamond Casino & Resort dropped five days before the DLC’s official launch to the excitement of many players.
    For months, gamers read articles about data-mine results and teases from Rockstar about the opening of the casino in GTA Online and finally, on 23 July, players got exactly what they hoped for. The casino floor of the Diamond Casino & Resort boasts many classic casino games, including blackjack, roulette, three-card poker, and numerous slot machines based on GTA lore. Then there’s also a virtual horse racing track for players to bet on virtual horses in the digital GTA casino. As well as these games, players can also indulge in a daily free spin on the Lucky Wheel to win prizes like casino chips, cash, or a supercar.
    On top of the casino games, players will also be able to sign up to the casino via standard or VIP memberships with escalating statuses which unlock vehicles as they progress with the DLC’s missions. Then there’s also the prospect of owning a piece of the Diamond Casino & Resort by getting a fully customisable penthouse suite. With the penthouse and the VIP membership, players gain access to many extras, such as exclusive lounges, a private spa, high-limit casino gaming tables, and the stunning rooftop infinity pool.
    The launch of this DLC has been massive for the already gargantuan game, reportedly bringing in the largest number of players to the game ever. Considering the game was launched in 2013 to huge sales, it’s incredible that it still has such a massive draw in 2019 for this free update. However, as has often been the case with the GTA franchise, this latest update hasn’t come without its controversies.

    Using real-world money to gamble in the GTA casino

    A video creator on YouTube did the maths to uncover how much one would have to spend to buy every item in GTA Online, as of July 2018, with the total coming to GTA$1.2 billion, or 150 Megaladon Shark Cards, which would cost $15,000 (£12,370) in real-world money.
    A controversy has arisen surrounding the opening of the Diamond Casino & Resort in GTA Online due to players effectively being able to gamble with real money. GTA Online has always enabled players to top up their balance of in-game currency by paying real money, via microtransactions, into the game. To do this, players purchase Shark Cards, with the lowest value conversion being the Red Shark Cash Card which costs £1.99 for GTA$100,000.
    To quell a lot of the potential backlash from people being able to convert real money into in-game money via Shark Cards for the purposes of gambling, Rockstar did install a cap at the Diamond Casino & Resort. During each in-game day, which lasts around 48 minutes of real-world time, players are capped to converting GTA$20,000 into casino chips. With premium membership, however, that cap rises to GTA$50,000. It has been calculated that per in-game day, a player could only convert £1 of real-world money into chips before hitting the cap at the premium membership level. It should also be noted that money put into GTA Online and gambled in the casino cannot be withdrawn as real-world money.

    Introducing a free way to play

    As they say: “the house always wins,” and even though players are commenting online about having a lot of fun, the majority are also saying that the casino games are draining their in-game bank balances. Players can earn the in-game currency by playing the game and completing missions, but as many people won’t know all of the intricacies of each casino game, many will lose their in-game currency fairly quickly. What the casino really could have done with to help all players and deliver enjoyment without risking cash – in-game or otherwise – would be to have a free-to-play section.
    Rockstar could have taken some queues from established online gambling brands which offer free-to-play modes either via bonus money or in completely free games as they give players a free crack at the games. A major part of bingo becoming so popular again has been online platforms being more welcoming to new players by offering free bingo sites, in which players can win bonus cash to then, effectively, enjoy more free games of bingo on the website.
    GTA Online could have deployed a similar strategy to allow its players to enjoy the casino with spending their in-game currency or encouraging them to deposit real cash for more in-game money to spend on gambling. The Diamond Casino & Resort could open a free-to-play section in which players can play with a limited daily number of second-tier ‘bonus chips’ which they can use to play and learn the games. Their winnings could then be exchanged into prizes like apparel, lesser cars, or a small number of real casino chips to incentivise players learning the games before playing at the ‘real’ in-game money tables.
    As GTA V is an 18-rated game, it should only be consenting adults in the GTA Online game mode with access to the Diamond Casino & Resort. In light of this, Rockstar has delivered a realistic casino gaming experience which has clearly appeased the fans. While some would have welcomed a truly free-to-play section, the caps put down are rather responsible from the creators of one of the most anarchy-laden games of all-time.