The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) calls on the UK Government to legally recognize loot boxes and skin betting as forms of gambling, following a study showing that almost 60% of young people see these as “highly addictive.” The report, titled Skins in the Game, involves interviews with British gamers aged between 11 and 24. It also finds that loot boxes are purchased by two in five young gamers. Reasons for purchasing loot boxes and engaging in skin betting include peer pressure from friends to not use default skins. A staggering 49% of young people felt that video games were only enjoyable if they spent money in-game.
Research from the Gambling Commission, who contributed to the project, also shows that the amount of 11 to 16 year-olds classed as “problem gamblers” (exhibiting behaviors such as lying about their gambling, risking relationships and stealing money to fund the addiction), rose from 0.9% in 2017 to 1.7% in 2019. It isn’t just the RSPH and the Gambling Commission who are concerned. The National Health Service also reported an increase of 21% for gambling-related hospital admissions between 2017 and 2018, which the report blames on the “normalization of gambling in video games.”
This isn’t the first time the gaming industry has come under fire in the UK. This September, representatives of Electronic Arts and Epic Games were grilled by a government select committee, where EA representative Kerry Hopkins infamously said, “…we don’t call them loot boxes—we call them surprise mechanics.” The committee disagreed with Hopkin’s assessment and concluded that “surprise mechanics” should be regulated under the Gambling Act.
The RSPH report serves to pile on the pressure on the new UK Government to pick up where the committee left off before the December election. The charity calls for the gaming industry to ensure all games aimed at under-18s are “gamble free,” and that technology is put in place for games to recognize disordered spending on loot boxes. Gaming giants, such as EA and Epic, continue to assert that loot boxes are not gambling, and should not fall under gambling legislation.