Royal Society for Public Health calls on UK government to do more to protect young people from ‘the normalisation of gambling in video games’

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is calling for a change to how loot boxes and skin betting are classified under gambling law.

In a report published today called Skins in the Game, the RSPH revealed what young people see as “the normalisation of gambling in video games”.  GambleAware conducted a survey of gambling amongst young people aged between 11 and 24 in the UK, and identified that a majority of young people – 58 per cent – see purchasing a loot box as gambling, whilst 60 per cent thought skin betting was a type of “highly addictive gambling”. 

Consequently, RSPH is now calling upon the Government to “introduce legislation to classify loot boxes and skin betting as legally-recognised forms of gambling” given 40 per cent of young gamers admitted they purchase loot boxes.

The research also found that over half of young people (55 per cent) believed that playing a mobile or video game could lead to a young person gambling, and 54 per cent “see the relationship between gambling and gaming as a negative one for young people”.

One in seven (14 per cent) of those polled who have confirmed they’ve participated in “gambling-related activity on games” admitted they’d paid for the activity using their own credit card, their parent’s card, or with money borrowed from a friend or family member, and 11 per cent said they participated in “gambling-like activity in games” because “they did not want to have a worse character or team than their friends”.

 

Following the survey results, the RSPH is now calling for the gaming industry to ensure gamble-free video games for under 18s, as well as asking it to develop of a set of criteria and technology “to identify disordered spending on loot boxes and gambling-like content in games”. It also asks for “a broader definition of gambling and gambling-like activity to be included in the Health Education Curriculum and introduced to young people at primary school”, and the development of education programmes to help parents, carers, and teachers support young people around gambling harms. Finally, the group wants to see recognition of harm gambling can cause and see it discussed in Mental Health Support Teams in schools and colleges.

 

Skins in the Game also highlighted concern about “the normalisation of gambling in football” and reported that almost half of 11-16-year-olds (41 per cent) were “exposed to gambling sponsorship on TV or radio at least once a month”, and calls for the introduction of legislation preventing gambling operators from acting as title sponsors for sports clubs, and the imposition of contractual requirements preventing sports professionals from endorsing gambling-related activity. 

“Young people have told us that gambling and gambling-like activity are slowly but surely polluting hobbies and past-times that have traditionally been beneficial to their wellbeing,” Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health told MCV/Develop in a statement. “Today, the vast majority of young people take part regularly in video-gaming and no doubt many will receive video games as Christmas presents. 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, through an industry that operates unchecked and unregulated on the back alleys of the internet, which young people can access from their bedrooms.

“As with any public health issue, this is one that requires a combination of measures focusing on both education and regulation. Young people are not universally opposed to gambling and gambling-like activity; they simply want to be able to recognise where it appears in their lives and to make an informed decision as to whether to avoid it altogether, or to participate in a way that lowers the stakes for their health and wellbeing.”

The full Skins in the Game report is available here.  

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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