Deep links between video games and gambling

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  • A study has found that various video game practices have potentially dangerous links to the problem in gambling and casinos.

    A study has found that various video game practices have potentially dangerous links to the problem in gambling and casinos.

    Building on previous research by the same author, which found a link between the gambling problem and video game loot boxes, the new study suggests that a number of other practices in video games, such as token bets, real money gambling, and casino spending are also significantly linked to problem gambling.

    Research provides evidence that gamers who engage in these practices are also more likely to suffer from gambling disorder, a condition in which persistent and repeated engagement with video games causes significant impairment or distress. Study author Dr David Zendle of the Department of Computer Science at York University said: “These findings suggest that the relationship between gambling and the gambling problem is more complex than many people realize.”

    “When we go beyond the loot boxes, we can see that there are multiple innovative practices in the game that incorporate game elements. All of them are related to the gambling problem and all seem to be widespread. This can pose a significant risk to public health”.

    For the study, a group of just under 1,100 participants were sampled by quota to represent the UK population in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. They were then asked about their gambling and gambling habits. The study found that a significant proportion (18.5%) of participants had adopted behavior related to both video games and gambling, like playing a social casino game or spending money on a loot box.

    Dr Zendle added: “There are loopholes right now that cause certain elements of gambling related video games to avoid regulation.” For example, social casinos are “video games” which are essentially a gambling simulation: you can spend real money there and the only thing preventing them from being regulated as proper gambling like found in casinos is that the winnings can not be converted into cash.

    “We need to put in place regulations that address all the similarities between gambling and video games. Loot boxes aren’t the only part of video games that overlaps with gaming, they’re just a small symptom of this wider convergence”.

    In 2019, academics from the University of York, including Dr David Zendle, contributed to a House of Commons select committee investigation whose report called for video game loot boxes to be regulated by law and that their sale to children be prohibited. Dr Zendle also provided key evidence to the recent House of Lords select committee investigation which also produced a report recommending the regulation of loot boxes as a game.

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