The Gambling Commission, the UK’s gambling regulator, has published its latest survey on gambling participation by 11 to 16 year olds. The survey reveals that 14 per cent of 11 to 16 year olds had spent their own money on a gambling activity in the week prior to taking part in the study. This is 2 percentage points higher than in 2017 but is still relatively low compared to previous years.
The most common gambling activities amongst 11 to 16 year olds identified by the survey include bets between friends, lottery scratch cards purchased by parents and playing of fruit machines in pubs. As some of these activities fall outside the Gambling Commission’s direct regulatory control, it highlights the need for a more collaborative proactive approach to protect young people.
The research demonstrates that parents are an important influence on children’s gambling behaviour. Although 60 per cent of young people think their parents would prefer them not to gamble at all, only 19 per cent stated that their parents set strict rules about gambling with no negotiation. In addition to this, 6 per cent have gambled online using a parent or guardian’s account.
The subject of video games constitutes a fraction of the Gambling Commission’s report. The report found that:
- 54% of 11-16 year olds were aware that it is possible to pay money or use in-game items to open loot boxes/crates/packs to get other in-game items within the game you are playing;
- 31% have opened loot boxes in a computer game or app, to try to acquire in-game items; and
- 3% claim to have bet with in-game items (so called ‘skins’ gambling).
Significantly, loot boxes in video games are not classed as gambling by the Commission. This is because loot boxes do not enable players to ‘cash out’ within the video games themselves. The Commission has stated that “we have not in any way, in the survey, referred to [loot boxes] as exposure to gambling.”
In response to these findings the Gambling Commission has called for regulators and businesses across industries to work together to protect children. It has also stated that the games industry “should not be, or perceived to be, passive to the exploitation of their player community by predatory third parties.”
Dr Richard Wilson OBE, Chief Executive Officer of TIGA, said:
“TIGA is committed to working closely with the Gambling Commission to prevent children from being exposed to gambling activities. TIGA has met with the Gambling Commission to discuss issues highlighted in this report and has published a guide to help inform developers about their responsibilities.
“We support the Gambling Commission’s efforts to crack down on unlicensed third party websites that put children at risk.”
The Gambling Commissions’ full report is available here.
For more information on the Government’s approach towards loot boxes see UK Government Action on Loot Boxes.
For more information on policing and safeguarding player communities in online games, see TIGA’s report Safeguarding Players: Responsibility and Best Practice.