New GambleAware Study Finds Video Game Loot Boxes Are Associated with Problem Gambling Behaviour

According to a recent study that has put more fuel into calls for stricter regulation of in-game items, so-called loot boxes are clearly linked to problem gambling.

Researchers analysed a total of 13 studies into the behaviour of gamblers to spent real money on loot boxes – a feature available in video games allowing players to purchase randomised awards, often without previously knowing what they would get in return. The rewards can help players make faster progress in the game or enhance their characters by making changes in their appearance or abilities.

As revealed by analysts, all but one of the researches showed a clear link between problem gambling behaviour and the use of loot boxes in video games, under the so-called Problem Gambling Severity Index (PSGI) measure. The report found that despite loot boxes and actual gambling were pretty similar structurally and psychologically, almost 50% of the British children who play video games used such in-game items.

The report also revealed that approximately 5% of loot box users account for 50% of the £700-million revenue generated by video games companies annually. Unfortunately, about one-third of these products’ users can be categorised as problem gamblers.

Loot Boxes Normalise Gambling to Many Underage Video Game Players

Although the industry has seen some campaigners share growing concerns about the characteristics and the rising popularity of loot boxes among UK players and especially children, these in-game items remain highly unregulated in the country. In contrast, other European countries, such as Belgium, have already implemented stricter regulation of loot boxes, categorising them as gambling products.

According to Richard Holden, a Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party, a loophole existed in the British legislation. He explained that loot boxes are regulated pretty much in the same way as football stickers were regulated years ago but it is clear that these products have evolved at a much faster pace than the laws governing them. This is why, in Mr Holden’s opinion, a loophole existed in UK gambling legislation.

The leading British charity organisation that commissioned the report, GambleAware, also shared it supports the implementation of tighter regulation on loot boxes and the entire gambling sector. The chief executive officer of the charity, Zoë Osmond, shared that the team of GambleAware is getting more and more concerned that gambling has become part of British children and young people’s everyday lives and underage players pretty much consider it normal activity.

Ms Osmond explained that the research was funded by GambleAware to highlight concerns regarding loot boxes and problem gambling at a time when the UK Government has been reviewing the country’s Gambling Act. Previously, local lawmakers have said they will take loot boxes into consideration and will make a decision on whether to classify them as gambling as part of its ongoing review of the British gambling industry. The consultation period of the review has just closed this week.

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.

Daniel Williams