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UK Gambling Commission: No link between loot boxes and exposure to gambling

Commission tells GamesIndustry.biz it did not find loot boxes are gateway to gambling, despite what media reports claim

The UK Gambling Commission has refuted assertions from the media that it links the exposure of children to loot boxes as a gateway to gambling.

Following the Young People and Gambling 2018 report released this week -- which found that three in ten children had opened loot boxes while playing video games -- several news outlets extrapolated the connection.

However, speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, a Gambling Commission spokeswoman said the report does not make that claim.

"We've not in anyway, in the survey, referred to it as exposure to gambling," she said. "The reason we've asked that question is that it's a very popular subject matter and we want to try and make sure that we have as much information and data around it as possible."

For this first time, questions surrounding awareness and usage of loot boxes were added to the annual survey of nearly 3,000 children aged 11 to 16 years old.

Although the UK Gambling Commission has previously raised concerns with the "increasingly blurred" lines between games and gambling, it does not consider loot boxes as either gambling or a gateway.

While the survey did find the number of child gamblers has quadrupled in two years, it did not explicitly make the connection with loot boxes.

"I think the confusion is... across Europe there are different views," the spokeswoman added. "We are more aligned to what the Netherlands' stance is on it. Obviously Belgium has taken its own stance on it."

The survey did find that 15% of children aged between 11 and 16 are aware of skins betting websites, but only 3% have ever participated.

Awareness of loot boxes among children is considerably higher, with 54% of children knowing that it was possible to pay money for them in games, and 31% actually acquiring and opening them either through their parent or guardian, or their own means.

While UK Gambling Commission's stance remains unchanged, a recent survey by Dr David Zendle and Dr Paul Cairns of York St. John University and University of York supported academic claims that loot boxes are "psychologically akin to gambling".

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Latest comments (1)

Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic23 days ago
I'm of the opinion that many implementations of loot boxes ARE a form of gambling. However, that still doesn't make them a gateway to other forms of gambling in the vast majority of cases. Most people who encounter loot boxes do so because they enjoy playing the games that they're found in. I find it unlikely that loot boxes will make a player give up a game in favour of looking for 'harder' forms of gambling... unless the rest of the game is comparatively rubbish, the person already has a high propensity for gambling addition, and yet they were somehow not previously aware that online gambling exists in many forms.
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