4.5 Participation in gambling-like gaming activities

Participating in gambling-like gaming activities, like loot boxes and skins gambling, is common for young people in the UK. In 2019, the Gambling Commission found that:1

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    Loot boxes
    44% of young people aged 11-16 have ever paid money to open a loot box. A separate Gambling Health Alliance report found that over a quarter (27%) of 11-14 year olds bought a loot box in the previous week.2

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    Skins gambling
    6% of 11-16 year olds have ever bet with in-game items (‘skins gambling’) on websites outside of the game or privately.

A 2021 report for GambleAware found that loot box purchasers are more likely to be:3

  • Young
  • Male
  • From a Black, Asian, or minority ethnic community
  • Someone with lower educational qualifications
  • Unemployed

Figure 13 shows that among over 18s, loot box purchasing is more common in younger adults.

Figure 13

Figure 13: Number of loot box purchasers by age and sex

Motivations for purchasing loot boxes

Gamers buy loot boxes for many reasons – and some of them are similar to common reasons for gambling.4 For example:

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    Excitement of opening loot boxes, including the sounds and colours and animations

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    The thrill of ‘near misses’, when you feel you were close to getting a high-value item

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    Peer pressure

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    Promotions and ads

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    Feelings of temptation or compulsion

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    Boredom or escapism

"It’s not just you click a button and then there you go you’ve got it – there’s a lot of, like, animation that comes with it and that’s quite, like, exciting and thrilling for me."

Young person

Other motivations include:

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    Fear of missing out
    Fear of being left out of social events around opening loot boxes, or their contents

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    The value of the content
    Wanting to get specific items from loot boxes (e.g. high value or rare items, specific skins for aesthetic value)

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    Game-related motives
    To win, to progress in the game, to skip ‘grinding’ for items in the game, or to make playing the game more enjoyable

"Fear of missing out, that’s what people are most vulnerable to… they think, ‘oh wow, I want to really get into this and do well in this game’, then they put a time limited event on and you think, ‘hang on a minute, I haven’t really gathered enough resources to do this event, maybe I need to buy something'."

Young person