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DCMS Committee call for regulation of betting in video games Published Date: 18/09/2019

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its 15th report looking at issued related to “Immersive and addictive technologies”.

A widely reported aspect of this report is the committee’s call to regulate betting in video games that children are being exposed to.

The enquiry found that three quarters of 5-to-15-year-olds play online games with some with some of these “facilitate gambling-like behaviours among players.”  

In particular the report focussed on “Loot boxes” and “Skin betting”.

Loot boxes are “items in video games that may be bought for real-world money, but which provide players with a randomised reward of uncertain value.” Those rewards will be virtual items for use in the game, such as tools, outfits and weapons, or characters with particular skills, all of which will be of variable benefit within the game.

Skin betting (or ‘skin gambling’) is the use of virtual items acquired in a game as a method of payment for a stake in external, unlicensed gambling. A recent Gambling Commission survey found that 3% of 11–16 year olds had bet with in-game items on websites outside of video games or privately.

The committee said: “Many games contain features that are highly similar to conventional gambling products, without gambling being the primary aim of the game. However, there are concerns that being exposed to such features from a young age might normalise gambling.”

The Committee has made a number of recommendations including:

  1. That the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should immediately establish a scientific working group to collate the latest evidence relating to the effects of gambling-like mechanics in games. The group should produce an evidence-based review of the effects of gambling-like game mechanics, including loot boxes and other emerging trends, to provide clarity and advice. This should be done within a timescale that enables it to inform the Government’s forthcoming online harms legislation.
  2. We recommend that loot boxes that contain the element of chance should not be sold to children playing games, and instead in-game credits should be earned through rewards won through playing the games.
  3. The Government should bring forward regulations under section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 in the next parliamentary session to specify that loot boxes are a game of chance.