The House of Lords has been handed a new damning report about the detrimental impact so-called loot boxes have on children in the UK.
The study was carried out by one of the leading independent gambling harm minimization consultancy firms on a global scale, EPIC Risk Management, with the company claiming that the research demonstrated a clear link between video gaming and underage gambling. The consultancy firm believes this association is represented exactly by special in-game items, such as loot boxes, which is exactly why it has called for the UK Government to follow suit of some countries in the European Union (EU), such as the Netherlands and Belgium, which have already banned the sales of loot boxes to customers under the age of 18.
EPIC Risk Management has also called for the competent authorities to unveil a programme aimed at helping younger children’s parents and legal guardians understand how loot boxes work, and why they could be associated with gambling at a very young age, as well as the additional problems that can follow.
This is not the first time when stricter measures are being sought in terms of online games’ loot boxes. In July 2020, the Gambling Committee at the House of Lords called for the special in-game items, such as loot boxes, to be fully banned, with a further survey showing that British children under the age of 18 are starting to develop worrying patterns of gambling behaviour, many because of loot boxes available in their favourite video games.
Most British Children Recognise Loot Boxes as Key Part of Online Gaming
At the time when he spoke to the House of Lords, the gaming and esports consultant at EPIC Risk Management – Jonathan Peniket – shared that the results of the latest survey held by the British consultancy firm were extremely concerning, as they once again suggested that the actual scale of the issues associated with loot box gambling is horrific.
The EPIC Risk Management study found that almost one-third (30%) of the surveyed 1,793 children had purchased some kind of an in-game item such as skins or loot boxes. Also, about 19% of them had gambled within the past 12 months, while 5% of the ones who had don so showed some signs of developing or being at risk of developing a compulsive gambling habit. A total of 3% of the children who had gambled, were suffering from gambling-related harm.
Even more concerning was the finding that more than half of the children who took part in the survey (55%) and the majority of the ones who gambled (88%) believed that loot boxes were an integral part of their online gaming experience.
Underage gambling has not been a new problem linked only to online gambling and esports betting platforms in the UK. It has been an issue since gambling was first made legal in the country, but the increasing digitalisation in the sector and the fact that some elements of gambling are now being integrated into online games aimed at audiences aged 17 or younger, make things worse.
So far, there have been some representatives of the esports industry that have confirmed there are issues with certain games available to underage players, including multiple illegal CS:GO skin gambling websites. But it is not just CS:GO that has been affected by the issue. According to reports, there is some form of special in-game item or loot box in almost every esports title available on the market, with these items being offered in the form of characters, clothing, weapons, skins, or other assets that could help a player develop their account more easily.
Over the last few years, FIFA loot boxes have become extremely popular in the UK, especially with younger players. As a result, the number of British children purchasing the FIFA Ultimate Team packs has increased.
Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.