A new study by the UK Gambling Commission has discovered a startling number of children now have gambling issues. The Gambling Commission report claims the number of children aged between 11 to 16 with genuine gambling problems has quadrupled within just the last two years.

An estimated 450,000 young people in the UK have placed a bet within the last week, or engaged in gambling schemes, whether that’s bets with friends, scratchcards, slot machines or, you guessed it, loot boxes. That is a higher figure than the number that has drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes, or consumed illegal drugs.

Of this 450,000, 50,000 are classified as having a gambling addiction, equivalent to 1.7% of all 11-16-year-olds. A further 2.2% are classified as at risk, while the remaining 32.5% are “non-problem gamblers” under the age of 16, whatever that means.

This is a complex and big topic to tackle, but a four-fold increase in gambling addiction in just two years is not something that’s easily ignored. In their report, the Gambling Commission highlights betting company’s presence on social media as an issue, as well as online participating in gambling-style games and “loot boxes”. 13% of 11-16-year-olds have played gambling games online, while 31% admit to buying loot boxes. A comparatively small 3% claim to have bet with in-game items such as skins.

There’s a storm brewing around this topic and it’s only a matter of time until there’s major blowback for games publishers. No matter how much they harp on about the fine print of what does and doesn’t constitute gambling, dancing around the topic at hand, there is no argument whatsoever that a lot of games at least attempt to mimic gambling mechanics, and in turn mimic what can make gambling addictive.

Publishers have been happy to bury their heads in the sand regarding any long-term societal issues, happy to make hay while the sun shines. It’s one thing to have loot boxes in adult-only titles, but when you’ve got games like FIFA, Overwatch, and Rocket League offering slot machine equivalents and card packs to audiences with potentially single-digit ages. And while there’s no direct causal link that can be drawn between loot boxes and youth gambling addiction, there is at least mounting evidence that it has become a genuine concern.

Sooner or later we expect the authorities to come down hard on this on loot boxes, and we doubt there are going to be many complaints from gamers themselves.

Source: Gambling Commission