Gambling & Gaming – are you being played?

March 25, 2024

“Parents and carers feel stuck in a vulnerable position, wanting to safeguard their children from potential harm when they spend in digital games, while tolerating their access to gaming because of the social benefits.”                                                 

Between Gaming and Gambling – ESRC Report

We often have a perceived idea of gambling. What it means, what it is and how we do it. But the truth is, that while technology has changed many ways in which we live our life, it has changed the gambling landscape beyond recognition too.

What does gambling mean now?

Often previously thought of as a male dominated issue, the idea of men heading into betting shops to place bets is a familiar one, and although still relevant, now only a represents one piece of the puzzle.

Gambling is targeting new audiences through gaming, and using gambling style mechanics in products like loot boxes, micro transactions and on platforms like social casinos. Social casinos mimic real life casinos in that they offer “free to play” casino games but at odds that favour the player, which, in turn, encourages participation on real online casinos.

These are promoted through social media channels, often appealing and accessible to young people. Gaming does promote belonging through groups, as well as building self-esteem and confidence.  However, having the option to jump online 24 hours a day, coupled with the introduction of gambling related mechanisms like loot boxes, there are early indicators of players experiencing harm.

Another relatively new phenomenon linking gaming and gambling is loot boxes. It’s a term and concept the majority of our young people in Scotland are very familiar with. From 2021, 77% of the 100 bestselling iPhone games in the UK contained loot boxes and similar products. Surprisingly, more than two thirds of games Pegi rated suitable for ages 9 years and above contained loot boxes – and studies show the earlier you start, the more likely you are to continue.

What are loot boxes?

This is a question many parents and care givers are asking. Loot boxes are products featured in video games that allow you the opportunity to buy and receive rewards such as skins, weapons and game advantages. They use randomisation and chance, strengthening the argument that loot boxes are similar to gambling. We are pleased to be able to present two very different podcasts to you that address these very issues.

We have a very raw and honest account around a young person’s gaming told by his mother Claire.  She explores hers son’s experiences of the buzz that comes from opening a loot box to find that much needed player or that cool new armour – and how it resulted in excessive play, disrupted sleep patterns, financial impacts and conflict within the home. Click here to play.

If you’d like to understand more about the mechanics of loot boxes and their links to gambling, why not listen to our podcast from Dr Leon Xiao and Dr Elena Petrovskaya.  Expert researchers in the fields of loot boxes and micro transactions, they have been working diligently to discover what it is about these products that are so akin to gambling and what needs to be done to prevent further harm. Click here to play.

If you are a parent or caregiver and recognise the language but aren’t sure what it means to young people, why not watch our video explaining loot boxes, the potential harms and what you can do to help keep you people safe, click here to play.

Leigh - social images