How are video games and gambling converging?

Available online – Evidence brief from the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario in which the authors outline four key ways that gambling and video games are converging.

[Introduction] In the past five years we have seen digital games and gambling shifting closer together than ever before. Although gambling per se has been available on digital platforms for several decades now, even the most video-game-like gambling experiences … rarely achieved much success. However, more recently a number of very new phenomena have emerged, and become highly successful, which blur video games and gambling in ways not before seen. Specifically, we are seeing video games increasingly shift to using gambling systems in a number of ways, while gambling systems are developing tropes of video games to appeal to new demographics. These are important new shifts for understanding the contemporary gambling landscape, and in this document we seek to outline several of the key ways this is taking place, and why they should be of interest to scholars, policymakers, and the public with an interest in the cutting-edge state of digital gambling. Access full article

Reference: Johnson, M.R., & Brock, T. (2019). How are video games and gambling converging? Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Paying for loot boxes is linked to problem gambling, regardless of specific features like cash-out and pay-to-win: A preregistered investigation (open access preprint)

Zendle, D., McCall, C., Barnett, H., & Cairns, P. (2018, October 13).

Abstract: Loot boxes are a common element of many video games. The defining feature of loot boxes is the element of chance. Players can buy loot boxes for real-world money, but they do not know a loot box’s content or value until they have opened it. Due to similarities between loot boxes and gambling, various countries are considering regulating them to reduce gambling-related harm. Indeed, prior research demonstrates a robust correlation between loot box purchases and problem gambling. However, loot boxes differ from each other in significant ways. For example, some loot boxes contain items that can be re-sold to other players, whilst others do not; some loot boxes contain items which give a gameplay advantage to players, whilst others do not. A key problem facing regulators is determining which types of loot boxes should be regulated to mitigate gambling-related harm. In this study, we specify a variety of different features that loot boxes may have. We then use a large-scale preregistered correlational analysis (n=1200) to determine if any of these features strengthen the link between loot box spending and problem gambling. Our results indicate that some loot box features may weakly strengthen the relationship between loot box spending and problem gambling. However, our main conclusion is that regardless of the presence or absence of specific features of loot boxes, if they are being sold to players for real-world money, then their purchase is linked to problem gambling. Access article preprint

Loot box spending in video games is linked to problem gambling severity [open access article]

Zendle, D., & Cairns, P. (2018). Loot box spending in video games is linked to problem gambling severity. doi:

Abstract: Loot boxes are items in video games that contain randomised contents and can be purchased with real-world money. Similarities between loot boxes and forms of gambling have led to questions about their legal status, and whether they should be regulated as gambling. A large-scale survey of gamers (n=1,174) found evidence for a link (η2 = 0.047) between the amount that gamers spent on loot boxes and the severity of their problem gambling. The more participants spent on loot boxes, the worse their problem gambling was. Previous research has strongly suggested both the size and the direction of link between loot box use and problem gambling. This paper confirms such a link’s existence. These results suggest either that loot boxes act as a gateway to problem gambling, or that individuals with gambling problems are drawn to spend more on loot boxes. In either case, we believe that these results suggest there is good reason to regulate loot boxes. Access full article

Watch your loot boxes! – Recent developments and legal assessment in selected key jurisdictions from a gambling law perspective [open access article]

Schwiddessen, S. & Karius, P. (2018). Interactive Entertainment Law Review, 1(1), 17–43. doi: 10.4337/ielr.2018.01.02

So called loot boxes are one of the most important monetization methods for many companies in the video gaming, social gaming and social casino gaming industry. After the global skin betting scandal in 2016 and the 2017 loot-box uproar, loot boxes are now under investigation or even subject to legislative measures in several jurisdictions. Since then, numerous regulatory authorities, politicians and other stake holders have issued statements on the matter. From a legal perspective, loot boxes can touch gambling, youth protection, consumer and even financial laws. Characteristic of the 2017 loot-box debate was a black or white view and people taking extreme positions. In particular, gamers and people not familiar with the subject tend to condemn loot boxes as gambling. However, taking a closer look at selected key jurisdictions shows that the application of gambling laws depends on the jurisdiction and on the exact set up of the loot box mechanism. Furthermore, some questions are not conclusively solved yet – not even in those jurisdictions which are regarded as loot-box safe havens. One of these questions is, for instance, the impact of secondary-market trading of loot-box-generated items. This article evaluates the legal situation of loot boxes from a gambling law perspective in selected jurisdictions. Full article

Are Video Games a Gateway to Gambling? A Longitudinal Study Based on a Representative Norwegian Sample [open access article]

Molde, H., Holmøy, B., Merkesdal, A.G. et al. (2018). Journal of Gambling Studies:

Abstract: The scope and variety of video games and monetary gambling opportunities are expanding rapidly. In many ways, these forms of entertainment are converging on digital and online video games and gambling sites. However, little is known about the relationship between video gaming and gambling. The present study explored the possibility of a directional relationship between measures of problem gaming and problem gambling, while also controlling for the influence of sex and age. In contrast to most previous investigations which are based on cross-sectional designs and non-representative samples, the present study utilized a longitudinal design conducted over 2 years (2013, 2015) and comprising 4601 participants (males 47.2%, age range 16–74) drawn from a random sample from the general population. Video gaming and gambling were assessed using the Gaming Addiction Scale for Adolescents and the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, respectively. Using an autoregressive cross-lagged structural equation model, we found a positive relationship between scores on problematic gaming and later scores on problematic gambling, whereas we found no evidence of the reverse relationship. Hence, video gaming problems appear to be a gateway behavior to problematic gambling behavior. In future research, one should continue to monitor the possible reciprocal behavioral influences between gambling and video gaming. Access full article

Gambling and Video Game Playing Among Youth

Jessica McBride & Jeffrey Derevensky

Gambling and video game playing represent two leisure activities in which adolescents and young adults participate. There are psychological and behavioural parallels between some forms of gambling (e.g., slot machines, video lottery terminals, electronic gambling machines) and some types of video games (e.g., arcade games). Both activities operate on behavioural principles of variable reinforcement schedules in order to reward and prolong play and use exciting and stimulating sound and light effects within game play. Additionally, both activities have similar negative effects associated with excessive play (e.g., poor academic performance, moodiness, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, and interpersonal conflict). Thus, there is concern that children and adolescents who are attracted to video games, for both psychological rewards and the challenge, may be at greater risk to gamble. We examined the gambling and video game playing behaviour among 1,229 adolescents and young adults. Results indicate that gamblers, relative to non-gamblers, were more likely to play video games. Video game players were more likely than non-players to gamble. Both social and problem gamblers had higher rates of video game playing than did non-gamblers, and addicted gamers had higher rates of gambling than did social and non-gamers. Results from the current study suggest significant overlap in youth participation in both gambling activities and video game playing. These results have implications for future research and the treatment of problem gambling and video game addiction.