While the world's various gambling commissions and governments continue to debate whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, a new survey from UK's Gambling Commission has actually found that British kids are placing bets on in-game items like weapon skins.
This so-called "skins gambling" has affected a little over 1 in 10 UK kids between the ages of 11 and 16, according to the survey. 45% of 11-16 year-olds were aware of "skin betting" and the knowledge of the gambling practice skewed more in the male direction with 59% of boys being familiar with it compared to 31% of girls. In addition to gambling on in-game items, 11 percent acknowledged that they have played gambling-themed social games on their smartphones or tablets.
Alarmingly, there's even a small percentage (just under one percent) who were classified as "problem gamblers," but the rate of these gamblers isn't any higher than it would be among an adult population. The amount of money being spent while gambling isn't typically huge. Around 64% of those who gamble said they'd spent £5 or less over the last week; however, 8% admitted to having spent over £40.
Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, believes that UK gamers are effectively being indoctrinated into gambling without even being aware of it.
"Because of these unlicensed skin betting sites, the safeguards that exist are not being applied and we're seeing examples of really young people, 11 and 12-year-olds, who are getting involved in skin betting, not realising that it's gambling," she said, as reported by the BBC. "At one level they are running up bills perhaps on their parents' Paypal account or credit card, but the wider effect is the introduction and normalisation of this kind of gambling among children and young people."
The BBC pointed out one unfortunate example of a Bangor University student, Ryan Archer, who's gambling habits spiraled out of control. He got into skins gambling at age 15 and within four years had lost more than £2,000.
"I'd get my student loan, some people spend it on expensive clothes, I spend it on gambling virtual items," he said. "There have been points where I could struggle to buy food, because this takes priority."