Video games and gambling

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Video games and gambling

Two people playing games on tvVideo games may seem fun and harmless, but Australian and international studies have shown that there's a link between online gaming and gambling.

There can be a progression from video games to online gaming for money and to gambling. Video games with elements of gambling are very common, and our NSW Youth Gambling Study 2020 tells us that around 40% of young people play video games that have gambling components.

Often, these games target young people, but the risks of progressing from online gaming to online gambling can apply to anybody.

Many studies conducted here and around the world have focused on this potential danger.

What simulated gambling in video games looks like

  • Social casino games
    These look and work like games in a casino but, instead of playing for money, you win points or in-game currency like coins or jewels. Sometimes players spend more to unlock special features or collect more points
  • Virtual goods like weapons or character upgrades
    Maybe you can buy or earn virtual goods, or maybe you can trade them in the game. They could even be traded online for real money.
  • Loot boxes
    A loot box is a reward you can win or buy during a game. What's in a box is the luck of the draw. There's no skill involved, so it's a lot like gambling. The cost can add up if you buy loot boxes using real money.

What we've learned from the NSW Youth Gambling Study 2020

The way young people behave when they're gaming reflects how much gaming and gambling are seen together in the same games. We found that:

  • young people who engaged in simulated gambling apps, demo games, simulated gambling on social networking sites or betting with in-game items were more likely to gamble on all monetary forms
  • young people who bought loot boxes and played video games with gambling components are more likely to gamble on some monetary forms
  • problematic gamers were more likely to gamble.
  • The way gaming and gambling come together, plus the increase of simulated gambling products and their popularity among young people, highlights increased potential for gambling harm.

Loot boxes

Lots of young people appear to purchase loot boxes (36.5% of the letterbox sample) and bet using in-game items (14.5%). These activities share several characteristics with gambling.

Watching eSports events is popular (40.8% of the letterbox sample). Although only 1.4% of the letterbox sample reported using real money for eSports betting, 6.2% reported eSports betting with in-game items. Another 15.1% intended to bet on eSports in the future. Betting on eSports is strongly associated with problem gambling, and the rates for young people is much higher than the rate of 3.3% of eSports betting (for money) among NSW adults aged 18 to 24 found in the NSW Gambling Survey 2019.

Snapshots from the NSW Youth Gambling Study 2020

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