Gam­ing ‘loot boxes’ pave way to prob­lem gam­bling

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Mike Wright

CHIL­DREN who play com­puter games that of­fer ran­dom re­wards are more likely to be­come prob­lem gam­blers in adult­hood.

A study by the univer­si­ties of York and York St John found adult gamers with a his­tory of prob­lem gam­bling spent more on paid-for fea­tures in video games, known as loot boxes, which dis­pense ran­dom items such as in-game weapons or char­ac­ters.

Re­searchers said the find­ings, which came from sur­veys of more than 7,400 gamers, es­tab­lished a sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ship be­tween prob­lem gam­bling and loot boxes. The fea­tures, used in pop­u­lar ti­tles such as Rocket League and Over­watch, could act as a gate­way to prob­lem gam­bling, they said. Loot boxes fea­ture in games rated ap­pro­pri­ate for any­one above the age of three.

It is es­ti­mated that this year £23bil­lion will have been spent on them.

Paul Cairns, from the Univer­sity of York, and one of the study’s authors, said the games in­dus­try had claimed that this was not gam­bling, it did not look like gam­bling, and that it was dif­fer­ent from gam­bling.

“But what we are say­ing is, OK, what­ever you can de­fine gam­bling as, the be­hav­iours are over­lap­ping with prob­lem gam­bling be­hav­iours. And that’s an is­sue,” he said. In the study, re­searchers asked gamers how much they spent on loot boxes ev­ery month and then as­sessed them against the Prob­lem Gam­bling Sever­ity In­dex. The study re­ported: “The more se­vere that par­tic­i­pant’s prob­lem gam­bling was, the more money they spent on loot boxes.”

Loot boxes are cur­rently not classed as gam­bling by the Gam­bling Com­mis­sion, as the prizes are deemed to have no mon­e­tary value. How­ever, the com­mis­sion is cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing ar­eas where it is con­cerned about in­creas­ingly “blurred lines” be­tween video games and gam­bling.

Prof Mark Grif­fiths, of Not­ting­ham Trent Univer­sity, called on the Gam­bling Com­mis­sion to al­ter its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Gam­bling Act 2005 to in­clude loot boxes. He said: “To me, loot boxes are gam­bling; they are akin to a lot­tery.”

Games such as Over­watch of­fer loot box re­wards dis­pens­ing ran­dom weapons

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