Gaming Technology

The rise of gambling in video games

Written by Christian Butler

Are your children turning to gambling in video games?

Video games can be a huge source of pleasure and fun for your child. However, a recent study from the government’s Gambling Commission is questioning their role in encouraging gambling.

What did the study find?

A recent study from the Gambling Commission found 370,000 11 to 16-year-olds have gambled each week. Since last year, the Gambling Commission started prosecuting people for running unlicensed skins gambling websites. The difficulty with prosecuting others is that many of these sites are not based in the UK.

Skins betting

Skins within a video game are aesthetic upgrade to a player’s character, such as changing the colour of a gun. They can be won or bought, and then sold or traded. The problem is that illicit websites use the skins as virtual currency, used to wager on eSports or casino like games. The Gambling Commission study found that 1 in 10 11 to 16-year-olds had gambled with skins before.

Loot boxes

These are boxes filled with a mystery item. The players spend virtual or real money for a chance to win a rare item. There is more of a debate over whether this constitutes gambling by the legal definition. The Gambling Commission has stated it would only consider loot boxes gambling if the contents could be turned into real money.

What’s being done?

Since last year, the Gambling Commission started prosecuting people for running unlicensed skins gambling websites. The difficulty with prosecuting others is that many of these sites are not based in the UK.

As for loot boxes, in Belgium, loot boxes have been outlawed. In China they are allowed, but the game must tell the player what the actual probability of getting a rare item is.

What can parents do?

It’s important to educate children on how gambling is designed to make someone else rich, not benefit the player. They should also be wary of leaving the safe environment of the video game to go to illicit websites. Also take care to keep tabs on how much real money is spent by your child in-game and on what. You can explain how aesthetic upgrades like skins do nothing to actually help the player beat the game.

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