The lines between gambling and video games have become blurred in recent years. With loot boxes being used as wagering collateral and the introduction of more social games that feature casino themes, gaming regulators believe that now is the time to draw more distinct boundaries between actual gambling and playing video games for fun.
15 European regulatory bodies (including Austria, France, the UK and Spain) and the Washington State Gambling Commission are coming together to deal with this issue. They will work together to take a look at the types of gambling-related activities offered in video games and identify harm prevention methods that would protect players from developing unhealthy habits.
Loot Box Gambling
One of the major concerns for the regulators is loot boxes. These are in-game items that players can purchase, the contents of which are randomly selected. Some countries have already banned loot boxes from being offered in video games, as players are required to pay for a randomized outcome – which can become a bigger problem when players go on to sell these items to others.
In fact, sites were site up that allowed players to gamble their loot box findings. Skin betting in CS:GO became a major problem in 2017, as players as young as 11 were betting their items on the outcome of professional matches. Eventually, skin betting sites were shut down, but the issue of loot boxes as gambling remains.
Social games are another concern for regulators. While there are plenty of play-money casino games out there, regulators are also worried about the in-game purchases that are made available to players of all ages in games like Candy Crush.
There are concerns that this type of gaming normalizes gambling for underage individuals. Even though players are not wagering actual cash on games like Zynga Poker, the act of playing poker and other casino games could cause young people to want to gamble – but without really understanding the value of money, as social games provide you with millions of coins to play with.
In-game purchases are also an issue. Players have the option to buy items that boost their performance in games that are cited as games of skill but often rely on luck in order to succeed. This could also be considered a form of gambling that is readily available to young people.
These are issues that regulators will have to discuss in order to understand how in-gaming purchases and can potentially harm players. The regulators will be working with consumer protection enforcement authorities as well as individual games developers in order to ensure that the right safeguards are put into place to protect players of all ages.