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Popular bagel Balatro was accused of promoting gambling and removed from stores

Balatro, the hot roguelike card game of the moment, was removed from several digital stores after changing its age rating due to gambling concerns. In response, publisher Playstack Games called the decision to increase the rating “unfounded” and promised to fight the removal of Balatro.

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The game is still available on all major platforms in North America, but is now rated “10+” by the ESRB and labeled “Gambling Themes.” Notably, in the UK Xbox and PlayStation stores it is rated “18+” by PEGI with a warning about “gambling elements”. The game has been completely removed from some European platforms.

 

Playstack Games in a statement expressed confidence that “the game will remain available on PC, including Steam,” and also explained that the sudden increase in the age rating led to changes in stores. “Please be assured that we are working as hard as we can to get the game back on sale as soon as possible.”

 

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This is not a problem with the stores themselves, but a reaction to the ratings board’s sudden decision to raise Balatro’s age rating from 3+ to 18+ without warning due to the erroneous assumption that “the game contains gambling elements and materials that teach gambling.

 

Balatro does not allow or encourage gambling – and we strongly believe the decision to increase the rating is unfounded. Balatro was developed by an anti-gambling gamer and extraordinary efforts were made to ensure that the game did not have any gambling mechanics.

 

Playstack also said it appealed a similar commission decision in October, when the age rating was temporarily raised for similar reasons. But then the rating was returned to its place, considering “unfounded mention of gambling topics.”

 

The game’s content has not changed since the age rating was returned to 3+.

 

It’s funny that PR manager Wout van Halderen added:

 

While we’re at it, can you stop calling our game “crack cocaine” before the FDA comes after us too?

 

For his part, the anonymous developer LocalThunk said:

 

I do not support gambling (betting something of personal value in hopes of chance) and I do not believe that Balatro contains it.

 

I added risk and reward mechanics to Balatro, but these are key elements of the genre as a whole.

 

Balatro is a poker-inspired collectible card roguelike that breaks the basic rules of poker in a hundred inventive ways. Apart from Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, it’s the highest-rated game of 2024, and it clearly shows no signs of stopping.

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