Precious and worthless: A comparative perspective on loot boxes and gambling.


Available online article from the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology made available via the University of Minnesota Law School.


Abstract: Odds-based microtransactions in video games, or “loot boxes,” offer users a chance to get special game items for actual money (i.e., legal tender), as opposed to acquiring this “loot” through in-game achievements. This feature provides revenue for game developers and allows users to acquire items that would otherwise require hours of gameplay. But loot boxes threaten to degrade game design and foist addictive mechanics on vulnerable users. Loot-box purchasers, much like pathological gamblers placing a wager, report an initial rush when opening a loot box and then a wave of regret and shame. This problem is especially acute in underage consumers who spend thousands of dollars to gain a desired item. Governments are aware of this disturbing trend and are attempting to regulate or outright ban the practice.
Present attempts to constrain game developers are predicated on a finding that selling random virtual items is in fact gambling. That approach is flawed. Loot boxes are unlikely to meet the legal requirements of gambling on account of two factors: users are guaranteed to receive at least one item and all items offered have no tangible value. Moreover, prohibiting the practice may encourage political actors to further censor video games, a popular scapegoat following school shootings and other tragic events. While loot boxes may not constitute gambling, the troublingly opaque nature of loot box odds warrants intervention. Accordingly, this Essay offers a novel dual-pronged transparency-based solution that avoids an outright ban on the activity. First, the odds of obtaining specific loot should be disclosed to consumers. Second, regulators should require game developers to rate such games as appropriate for adults, not children.
Available online

Reference: Moshirnia, A.V. (2018). Precious and worthless: A comparative perspective on Loot Boxes and gambling. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 20(1), 77-114. Retrieved from: https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/mjlst/vol20/iss1/5

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The Same or Different? Convergence of Skin Gambling and Other Gambling Among Children


Available online – article from the Journal of Gambling Studies via SpringerLink.


Abstract: There is increasing attention on the introduction of gambling-like practices within video games. Termed convergence, this has been explored from the viewpoint of the product, examining similarities in game/gambling mechanics. Understanding convergence of practice is essential to map the epidemiology of these behaviours, especially among children. This paper focuses on the betting of skins within video games to explore co-occurrence with other forms of gambling among British children aged 11–16. Analysing the British Youth Gambling Survey showed that 39% of children who bet on skins in the past month had also gambled on other activities. Betting on skins and other forms of gambling increased with age and concordance of skin gambling/betting was greatest for those who also gambled online. Among gamblers, those who bet skins had higher rates of at-risk and problem gambling than those who did not (23% vs. 8%), though they had a greater breath of gambling involvement. Skin gambling alone was not significantly associated with at-risk gambling when other forms of gambling activity were taken into account. Skin betting and gambling on other activities cluster together, especially where the medium underpinning the behaviours is the same. Children who engage in both skin gambling/betting and other forms of gambling should be considered at-risk for the experience of harms because of their heightened engagement in gambling and gambling-like activities. Access article online

Reference: Wardle, H. (2019). The Same or Different? Convergence of Skin Gambling and Other Gambling Among Children. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09840-5

Early gambling behaviour in online games. Parental perspectives vs. what children report [open access ebook chapter]

Abstract: In this study, we focus on early gambling practices in online games via surveys administered among primary school children and their parents. The convergence of gambling and digital games comes along with new challenges for parental awareness and mediation. The lack of an obligatory strict classification system and labelling of simulated gambling games and their gambling characteristics makes it hard for parents to identify potential risks. In addition, the online context of simulated gambling games lowers the threshold for children to be exposed to gambling activities at a very early age. Our research questions are twofold: (1) What are parents’ perspectives on children’s engagement in gambling games? (2) What do children report about their game play incorporating gambling elements? Our study therefore measures parental mediation of games of chance and explores its relation with early online gambling behaviour in children. Access full ebook

Book chapter by Rozane De Cock, Bieke Zaman, Maarten Van Mechelen & Jonathan Huyghe; in Digital parenting: The challenges for families in the digital age. Editors: Giovanna Mascheroni, Cristina Ponte & Ana Jorge. Published by the International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media, 2018.

Young people’s awareness of the timing and placement of gambling advertising on traditional and social media platforms: a study of 11–16-year-olds in Australia (open access article)

Thomas, S. L., Bestman, A., Pitt, H., Cassidy, R., McCarthy, S., Nyemcsok, C., Cowlishaw, S., & Daube, M. (2018). Harm Reduction Journal, 15(51). doi:10.1186/s12954-018-0254-6

Abstract: Research has demonstrated that the promotion of gambling, particularly within sport, may have a significant impact on positively shaping young people’s attitudes towards gambling. While some governments have implemented restrictions to limit young people’s exposure to gambling advertising, few studies have investigated where young people recall seeing gambling advertising, and whether they perceive that advertising restrictions have gone far enough in reducing exposure to these promotions.. Access full article

Factors that influence children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions: lessons for gambling harm prevention research, policies and advocacy strategies (full text)

Hannah Pitt, Samantha L. Thomas, Amy Bestman, Mike Daube and Jeffrey Derevensky.

Background: Harmful gambling is a public health issue that affects not only adults but also children. With the development of a range of new gambling products, and the marketing for these products, children are potentially exposed to gambling more than ever before. While there have been many calls to develop strategies which protect children from harmful gambling products, very little is known about the factors that may influence children’s attitudes towards these products. This study aimed to explore children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions and the range of consumer socialisation factors that may influence these attitudes and behaviours.

Methods: Children aged 8 to 16 years old (n = 48) were interviewed in Melbourne, Australia. A semi-structured interview format included activities with children and open-ended questions. We explored children’s perceptions of the popularity of different gambling products, their current engagement with gambling, and their future gambling consumption intentions. We used thematic analysis to explore children’s narratives with a focus on the range of socialising factors that may shape children’s gambling attitudes and perceptions.

Results: Three key themes emerged from the data. First, children’s perceptions of the popularity of different products were shaped by what they had seen or heard about these products, whether through family activities, the media (and in particular marketing) of gambling products, and/or the alignment of gambling products with sport. Second, children’s gambling behaviours were influenced by family members and culturally valued events. Third, many children indicated consumption intentions towards sports betting. This was due to four key factors: (1) the alignment of gambling with culturally valued activities; (2) their perceived knowledge about sport; (3) the marketing and advertising of gambling products (and in particular sports betting); and (4) the influence of friends and family.

Conclusions: This study indicates that there is a range of socialisation factors, particularly family and the media (predominantly via marketing), which may be positively shaping children’s gambling attitudes, behaviours and consumption intentions. There is a need for governments to develop effective policies and regulations to reduce children’s exposure to gambling products and ensure they are protected from the harms associated with gambling.

Pitt, H., Thomas, S. L., Bestman, A., Daube, M., & Derevensky, J. (2017). Factors that influence children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions: lessons for gambling harm prevention research, policies and advocacy strategies. Harm Reduction Journal, 14, 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-017-0136-3

Shaping pathways to gambling consumption? An analysis of the promotion of gambling and non-gambling activities from gambling venues

Background: In Australia, venues which provide gambling activities also provide activities that are utilised by families and children. However, there has been limited theoretical or empirical discussion about whether engagement with non-gambling activities may play a role in shaping pathways to current or future engagement in gambling within these environments. We examined marketing tactics for non-gambling and gambling activities in Clubs. Using this data, we propose a conceptual model to test the role of non-gambling activities within gambling environments in shaping gambling attitudes and consumption intentions.

Methods: This study used a mixed method interpretive content analysis to review the marketing activities on the websites of a sample of 65 registered Clubs in New South Wales, Australia. We identified the extent and nature of techniques used to market gambling and non-gambling activities, particularly non-gambling activities directed towards families and children…

Source: Bestman, A., Thomas, S., Randle, M., Pitt, H., Daube, M., & Pettigrew, S. (2015). Shaping pathways to gambling consumption? An analysis of the promotion of gambling and non-gambling activities from gambling venues. Addiction Research & Theory, 0(0), 1–11.