It is no surprise that video games can lead to addictions, however, a researcher from B.C. has recently linked games’ loot boxes to problem gambling. This issue was raised by Luke Clark, director at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Gambling Research at a panel during this year’s edition of the New Horizons conference by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation.
Loot boxes are not a new mechanic in video games as they have been part of the industry for over a decade now. However, they have become increasingly popular among leading games. Their concept is of randomized prize generators that participants of a game can win if they have accumulated enough points or just purchase them at a certain price.
In a panel at New Horizons, Mr. Clark presented his new research that correlates video game loot boxed to problem gambling. He explained that those boxes award a randomized prize, and players are not aware of what they are getting. Its mechanic is similar to one of a slot machine, and in some instances, players can sell the virtual items for it for actual money.
He also noted that there were previous concerns about whether loot boxes are effectively a disguised form of gambling. The expert had if they constitute a form of gambling, which children have accesso, then there should a discussion about regulating it. He added that more attention is needed within game design to make games safer in terms of spending.
According to experts, those most likely to get addicted to gaming share some common characteristics with potential problem gamblers. Most of the time, they tend to be younger males, and this phenomenon is also seen in sports betting. In B.C. the only regulated website for problem gambling is BCLC’s PlayNow, however, many people still resort to illegal online portals.
Marie-Noelle Savoie, BCLC’s vice-president of legal compliance and security commented that the Crown corporation has witnessed that the demographics of sports betting players with issues have quite different issues from the ones of regular problem gamblers. She remarked that this is matter worth looking into while experts also monitor sports gambling behaviour.
Major Advocate for Responsible Play
BCLC is a major advocate for responsible yet fun gambling entertainment. Over the years, the Crown agency has held many initiatives to limit the chance of problem gambling. During last year’s Christmas holidays, it reminded parents and adults from B.C. not to gift lottery tickets to kids, as early exposure for kids to gambling could lead to problems in the future.
Meanwhile, in January 2023, the BCLC, made some alterations to its Game Break self-exclusion program, in order to make it more approachable for bettors. The new version will enable better support for bettors with a name that is more approachable for people who opt to enlist and support participants who wish to return to gambling.
Source: Mijure, Ben “Video game loot boxes could be linked to problem gambling, B.C. researcher says” CTV News Vancouver, March 8, 2023