A damning report about the harm that Loot Boxes have in terms of underage gambling in the United Kingdom has been presented to the House of Lords.
EPIC Risk Management completed the study, which it claims showed a clear link between video gaming and under-age gambling, ostensibly in the form of in-game loot boxes.
The organisation has called for the UK to follow EU countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where a ban on loot box sales to users under the age of 18 has already been implemented.
Furthermore, the company has called for a programme to help parents and guardians of younger children understand how Loot Boxes work, and why they could be linked to underage gambling and the additional problems that can ensue.
Not A New Problem
Under-age gambling is not a new problem solely linked to UK esports betting sites. It has been an issue since gambling was first legalised, but what is making things more problematic is that gambling is now becoming integrated into games that are massively popular with players aged 17 or younger.
Many within the esports industry have recognised there are issues within certain games. A good example of this was the sheer amount of illegal CSGO skin gambling sites that cropped up, so much so that it moved the games’ developer Valve to shut down as many of the skin gambling sites as possible (with a high degree of success).
However, it is not just a CSGO gambling issue.
In almost every esports title now, there is some form of Loot Box you can collect. This can be in the form of skins, weapons, characters, clothing, or also in the form of assets, such as certain players in sports-based esports games such as FIFA, Madden and NBA2K.
In the UK, FIFA Loot Boxes, as part of the FIFA Ultimate Team part of the game, have become hugely popular especially with players aged 18 and under. This has seen an increase in the number of children purchasing these FIFA Ultimate Team packs.
Back in July 2020, the House of Lords Gambling Committee called for a ban on Loot Boxes and further research has also shown that school children are starting to develop worrying patterns of betting behaviour, many due to Loot Boxes.
Speaking to the House of Lords, Jonathan Peniket, EPIC Risk Management’s gaming and esports consultant worryingly commented:
The survey results are extremely concerning; they suggest once again that the true scale of the issue of loot box gambling is terrifying.
EPIC’s own study found that 30% of its 1,793 children picked from 31 schools had purchased loot boxes or skins or similar. 19% had gambled within the past 12 months, and a staggering 5% of the children that had gambled showed signs of being in serious danger of developing a serious gambling habit.
Furthermore, 3% of those children that had gambled could be said to be suffering harm due to gambling.
Perhaps more concerning was the fact that 55% of the children surveyed and 88% of those that gambled, felt that Loot Boxes were a key part of their online gaming experience.
Loot box gambling is not regulated in the same way that esports betting is, and the chances of a player landing a high value item in a loot box can be incredibly small, which leads to players spending more money and so on.
“Loot boxes continue to create awful situations in people’s lives and their regulation in the UK, as seen in other European countries is critical,” stated Peniket.
With the issues of Loot Boxes becoming contentious in gaming circles, it is going to be very interesting to see what the British Government and gaming operators that use these forms of revenue generators do next.