The UK Gambling Committee’s end of year report on Young People and Gambling has suggested that 45 per cent of kids between the ages of 11-16 know about skin gambling, while 11 per cent say they’ve placed bets with in-game items.
Skin gambling is a catch-all term to describe several different sorts of gambling that involve using digital items, often cosmetics, as wagers in several games of chance. This can involve using skins to bet on the outcome of big matches, or just throwing your skin into the pot on the spin of a wheel to try and take home a public pot made of your item and the items of several other players.
That 11 per cent of players between 11-16 have used these sites paints a grim picture for the practice, which is only supposed to be used by users that are 18 or over in the United Kingdom. The figure icreases with age, so it’s actually just 3 per cent of 11 year olds, increasing to 14 per cent in 14,15 and 16 year olds.
While the loot box issue is a thorny one, the ability for many skin gamblers, often using CS:GO skins, to ‘cash out’ for real money using Steam’s marketplace, makes it gambling in the sense that there’s a gamble involved followed by a real world payout.
Previously, the Gambling Commission has taken action against those running unlicensed betting sites, earlier this year successfully prosecuting the owners of the FUT Galaxy website, allowing players to gamble on real-life football matches using Fifa 17’s virtual currency. Youtuber Craig ‘Nepenthez’ Douglas and Dylan Rigby, the site’s owners, copped a £255,000 fine.
"The Gambling Commission takes the view that the ability to convert in-game items to cash, or to trade them (for other items of value) means they attain a real-world value and become articles of money or money’s worth. Where gambling facilities are offered to British consumers, including with the use of in-game items that can be converted into cash or traded (for items of value), a gambling license is required," says the report.
"Tackling operators making gambling facilities available to children is one of the Gambling Commission’s priorities."
In a statement to the BBC, Gambling Commision chief executive Sarah Harrison told the BBC: "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 realizing that it’s gambling."