In a new report published today, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) called for legislation to prevent gambling companies from serving as title sponsors for sports clubs.
The study, called Skins in the Game, surveyed 1,025 youth across the UK, ranging from 11 to 24. In this paper, RSPH called on the new Conservative government to introduce legislation that would define loot boxes and skin betting classified forms of gambling.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Royal Society for Public Health’s chief executive said: “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.
“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.”
Loot boxes, purchased by two in five (40 percent) of young gamers, are items found in games, offering unknown randomised prizes at the point of purchase. These can be cosmetic, such as’ skins’ that alter an in-game character’s look, or give users a gameplay advantage.
The study, sponsored by GambleAware, found that most youth see both purchasing a loot box (58%) and engaging in skin betting (60%) as possible paths to problem gambling.
RSPH subsequently outlined a number of requests, including: a pledge by the gaming industry to ensure gambling-free video and computer games for children under the age of 18; the implementation of a set of criteria and technologies to identify patterns of spending on loot boxes; a wider definition of gambling to be included in the Health Education curriculum and applied to primary school youth; developing education programmes that would help parents, caregivers and teachers recognise gambling problems; and identifying gambling risks as a challenge for mental health support teams in schools and colleges.