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Loot boxes and blurred lines between gaming and gambling

02 February 2024
Volume 5 · Issue 1


The lines between video-gaming and gambling have become blurred, representing a distinct safeguarding risk for our young people. What is the role of education in addressing this problem?

According to the Online Gaming Statistics survey (Uswitch, 2023), 91% of UK children aged 3 to 15 play games on some type of digital device. The most common age for online gamers is 12 to 15 – 76% of this age group said that they played online games, with consoles being the leading gaming device (59%). Other findings include that 61% of children own a smartphone device by the age of 10 and more than half also play online games using a mobile phone.

In addition to providing entertainment and enjoyment, video-gaming offers a spectrum of benefits spanning cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions. Yet, akin to other rapidly advancing technological domains, there are emerging risks. The convergence of video-gaming and gambling has raised concerns, particularly with the proliferation of in-game purchases, ‘loot boxes’, and similar mechanics that echo elements of gambling.

A loot box is a virtual item in a mobile or video game that players can purchase or earn in-game. When opened, the loot box contains random items which can vary widely in rarity and desirability in the context of the game. These items can include in-game currency, character skins, weapons, or other cosmetic enhancements. The key characteristic of loot boxes is that the contents are unknown to the player before purchase or opening and chance or luck determines what is inside.

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