Betting Features in Video Games Labelled as Harmful to Youngsters

December 23, 2019 •

loot box clampdownThe subject of loot boxes being found within video games has been a talking point for many countries in recent times, and some of them have taken to banning the titles that feature such boxes. Now it looks as though the overall topic of in-game betting has become the latest aim of certain organisations, which claims that it is “polluting” the lives of young people who play the games.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has suggested that because betting-style features appear within some video games, that they should be labelled as only available to over 18s. Numerous people and organisations have called for the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson to follow through on the manifesto of the Conservative party by reviewing the overall setup of the country’s gambling industry.

In fact, the RSPH has published its own report on the subject, entitled Skins in the Game. This looks into the effect that video game betting has on young people’s health and wellbeing. Within that report, the RSPH takes aim at video games and sports as their areas of concern. It suggests that video games and other such products that provide gambling-style options within, such as the aforementioned loot boxes, enable betting firms to bypass certain safeguards that are in place so as to protect minors.

As it happens, the loot boxes noted were targeted within the report. The boxes allow players to either purchase or earn random in-game rewards, and if it’s not an item that they want, they have the possibility of putting it up for auction, where other players can bet on it. This has become known as Skin Betting.

Will The Conservatives Introduce A New Digital Age of Gambling Legislation?

game overBoris Johnson and the Conservatives wrote in their manifesto that the current gambling legislation is way too analogue for the digital age of the United Kingdom that we are in now. It was Tony Blair’s Labour government that introduced the last gambling legislation back in 2005, and it is this that Johnson promised to investigate and alter, with a focus also being placed on the aforementioned loot boxes.

The classification of such boxes is not currently labelled as gambling, which is what the RSPH wants to happen. If such did happen under the Conservatives, then video games developers would have to take the alternate route of ditching loot boxes from being available in their products. That market is actually worth around £700 million within the UK, so it would definitely have an impact on revenue for them. Otherwise, it would mean placing age restrictions on certain games that they release as an alternative.

Speaking of this call for action by the RSPH, the Chief Executive of the organisation, Shirley Cramer said that young people have informed them that such in-game betting possibilities are actually polluting their hobbies and other pastimes. Instead of participating in beneficial activities, Cramer said that a large number of young people take part in video gaming.

“However, we, and the young people we’ve spoken to, are concerned at how firmly embedded gambling-type features are in many of these games. The rise of loot boxes and skin betting have seen young people introduced to the same mechanisms that underpin gambling,” she continued.

RSPH Unites with GambleAware for Research Purposes

rsphIn order to uncover the information included within the Skins in the Game report, the RSPH joined forces with the GambleAware charity.

This found that two in five young gamers had bought loot boxes before, whilst more than half of them believed that video games could actually introduce them to proper gambling.

“Problem gambling can devastate lives, which is why we are absolutely committed to protecting young people from gambling-related harm”

Said a spokesperson for the Government. He continued by saying that a commitment has been made to reviewing the current Gambling Act and that concerns over loot boxes and their status are being considered seriously.

This course of action that has been taken by the RSPH is very similar to the call from various MPs earlier this year, who requested for loot boxes to be classed as gambling. Additionally, the RSPH report called for legislation to slacken the link between gambling and sports. Within, it requested for sportspeople to be barred from being able to endorse gambling of any sort, either by appearing in commercials or sporting outfits with gambling platform sponsorship. Such a move would undoubtedly have an effect on both industries.

Yet, the report suggested that sponsorship deals between sports clubs and gambling companies have weakened any efforts to protect youngsters from being influenced by the betting market.

“At a time where 55,000 children in Great Britain are classed as problem gamblers and we have seen the National Problem Gambling Clinic commission specialist services for 13-25 year olds, the close relationship between the industries is not one that should remain unaddressed”

the report states.

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