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Gambleaware Study Observes Loot Boxes Are Associated with Problem Gambling

GambleAware Study Observes Loot Boxes Are Associated with Problem Gambling

Upon releasing its report that found “robust evidence” of video game features being “structurally and psychologically akin to gambling”, GambleAware researchers have suggested plenty of policies to prevent gambling harms associated with loot boxes.

GambleAware, too, noted that there is “a significant correlation between loot box expenditure and problem gambling scores”.

(Un)safe Entertainment

The University of Plymouth and the University of Wolverhampton have released findings related to gaming and gambling, which found that 93% of youngsters in the UK play video games. Likewise, up to 40% of those have opened loot boxes.

Senior Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, Dr James Close, stated: “Our work has established that engagement with loot boxes is associated with problem gambling behaviours, with players encouraged to purchase through psychological techniques such as ‘fear of missing out’.

Dr Close additionally observed that -

“We have also demonstrated that at-risk individuals, such as problem gamblers, gamers, and young people, make disproportionate contributions to loot box revenues. We have made a number of policy suggestions to better manage these risks to vulnerable people, although broader consumer protections may also be required.”

Young Men More Likely to Open Loot Boxes

According to the research conducted on around 14,000 gamers, young men appear to be more likely to open loot boxes, with those of a lower educational attainment, and younger age also more likely to engage with these features.

GambleAware noted that there is “a significant correlation between loot box expenditure and problem gambling scores”.

The question on everyone's mind is: Are loot boxes gambling? Referring to interviews with UK purchasers, loot boxes are just one type of “psychological nudge” used to encourage purchase, working together with other techniques, such as the fear of missing out on limited time offers as well as in game currencies.

Paired with the real-world and/or psychological value of digital assets, the research leads the study to state that “loot boxes could be regulated under existing gambling legislation”.

With the data found, prevention of gambling harms associated with loot boxes grew to focus, and suggestions for improvement exist within the following lines:

  • Game labelling and enforceable age ratings;
  • Spending limits and prices shown in real currency;
  • Full disclosure of odds presented in an easily understood manner;
  • Changes to be instated via new regulations or alterations to existing gambling laws;

CEO of GambleAware, Zoë Osmond, explained: “This research is part of GambleAware’s continued commitment to protect children, adolescents and young people from gambling harms.

The research has revealed that a high number of children who play video games also purchase loot boxes and we are increasingly concerned that gambling is now part of everyday life for children and young people”.

Osmond concluded:

“GambleAware funded this research to highlight concerns around loot boxes and problem gambling, ahead of the upcoming Gambling Act review. It is now for politicians to review this research, as well as the evidence of other organisations, and decide what legislative and regulatory changes are needed to address these concerns.”

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