Can Loot Boxes in Video Games Lead to Problem Gambling in Children?

Posted by Laura Matthew on February 5, 2019
video game loot box gambling

According to the numbers supplied by the UK Gambling Commission, the number of children with gambling problems is growing at an alarmingly rapid rate. Figures suggest that the number has quadrupled to in excess of 50,000 in the last couple of years and many experts are now of the opinion that the simulated gambling in video games is one of the main factors behind this.

What has become common where video games are concerned is the game of chance. In popular video games such as Fortnite, Overwatch and FIFA, players are now able to purchase things such as loot boxes, card packs, and other specifically designed products where there is a chance selection of rewards. These packs and other similar items are purchased with real cash via microtransactions, and because the chances of netting something great is slim, players are then encouraged to increase their likelihood of obtaining a valuable reward by spending even more money.

Now, some may argue that purchasing loot boxes or card packs isn’t gambling, but when somebody has spent real money on these items in the hope of getting something that they realistically have a less than 5% chance of obtaining, in a way it is gambling. There’s also the issue of in-game items and virtual currencies being traded back for real money via websites. This immediately wipes out the argument that it cannot be gambling as the items are only valuable within the game itself. Therefore, it is quite logical to see why there are those who believe there is indeed an expansion of gambling in gaming.

These in-game purchases present players with the opportunity to increase their success somewhat in various scenarios. In FIFA Ultimate Team for example, people can purchase packs which could contain better players, ultimately increasing a player’s chances of being successful in the competitive game modes. In other games players can purchase cosmetic upgrades such as skins, which again are very appealing to children and young people. According to the Gambling Commission, 39% of 11-to-16-year-old’s are believed to have spent their own money at any one time on gambling over a 12-month period, which is slightly worrying.

While many may not see loot boxes and other in-game purchases as a form of gambling in the same breath as casino gaming, video games are far more accessible to audiences of all ages. There are measures in place at online casinos for example, and these are specifically designed to prevent minors from first accessing the various games on offer and to prevent them from depositing cash and playing. There are also strict measures in place to help prevent gambling problems from being developing or being furthered, too.

These issues are taken very seriously in the casino industry. As a result, many casinos are following the example of industry leader PartyCasino who is fully compliant and licensed by bodies such as Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner and the UK Gambling Commission. This ensures that operators incorporate real time checks like Age Verification, Identity and Proof of Address to ensure only players of a certain age are able to conduct transactions etc.

So, while children may not specifically develop gambling problems based on playing their favorite video games and buying packs or loot boxes, it is something which needs to be further looked into as it could well develop into something further down the line. It does, however, look like these items are here to stay and they do make the game more exciting for many players.

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