EPIC Risk Management has cited an ‘apparent’ convergence between video games and gambling in the form of loot boxes, calling for greater restrictions on the controversial assets.
The gambling harm prevention consultancy organisation has argued in favour of a ban on sales of the products to under-18s as well as improved education for parents and guardians.
Prohibition of loot box sales to under-18s would follow similar measures implemented in the Netherlands and Belgium, whilst EPIC adds that increased education for parents and guardians would provide better understanding of the gambling-related products within video games.
EPIC has cited research into UK schoolchildren’s betting behaviour, whilst also pointing to the the House of Lords Gambling Committee’s call for a ban on loot boxes in July 2020.
Addressing the House of Lords, EPIC Risk Management’s gaming and eSports consultant, Jonathan Peniket, stated: “The survey results are extremely concerning; they suggest once again that the true scale of the issue of loot box gambling is terrifying.”
EPIC’s survey of 1,793 children from 31 schools found that 30% had purchased loot boxes or video game skins, whilst 19% had gambled within the past 12 months – with 5% of this group categorised as being ‘at risk’ of developing a gambling problem.
The group further stated that 3% of these children could already be classified as suffering from gambling related harm. Meanwhile, 55%of the former group and 88% of the latter described loot boxes of gaming skins as forming part of their gambling experience.
Loot boxes have become a highly contentious issue in betting and gaming circles over the past year, particularly as the Gambling Act review progresses, whilst as EPIC observed, other European nations have enacted stricter regulation of the products.
In the UK, some Minister’s have reportedly called on games developers to self-regulate and prevent sales of loot boxes to minors, whilst peers such as Liberal Democrat Lord Foster of Bath have called for prohibition – among other measures.
“It is disappointing that we are still yet to hear any response to the government’s call for evidence on the issue which closed some 16 months ago now,” Peniket continued.
“Loot boxes continue to create awful situations in people’s lives and their regulation in the UK, as seen in other European countries, is critical.”
Additional safer gambling groups have expressed concern at loot boxes, with both GambleAware and GamCare raising the video game assets as a potential cause of gambling related harm among young people.