Much of the new research and decision-making in gambling addiction legislation has focused on reducing risk for young people and children. At the same time, one of the most discussed areas of influence for potentially harmful effects on youth is video games. The two intersect in the debate surrounding the impact of gambling through video games, which is gaining more attention as governments take action.
The theme of the similarities between video games, gambling and the real world is an old one. Over the past decade, the issue of violence in video games has been particularly raised as a potential risk to the destigmatization and normalization of violence in the real world.
Today, with the advent of things like eSports and cryptocurrency, the similarities between gaming and gambling have gained more attention. This is partly a result of the increased demand and availability of online casino websites such as , as well as the introduction of gambling-like elements such as loot boxes.
Casino gambling in video games
Gambling elements are often incorporated into video games as they add an adventurous twist that is often crucial to storylines. Games such as “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” and “Fallout: New Vegas” offer several opportunities to gamble in casinos throughout the game and complete missions that encourage players to return to gambling establishments from time to time. Players can play both slot machines and card games where they can win or lose their in-game currency.
New bans in Europe
As with sports, there is an argument that the visual association between gambling and a favorite sports team – or in this case, a favorite game – creates a positive connotation. In other words, if a certain type of gambling is used in connection with a person’s favorite video game, that person is more likely to feel positive about it and be willing to try it. This argument is one of the main reasons behind the continental sweep of bans on sponsorship and gambling in football leagues.
Loot box problem
The biggest problem with gambling in recent times, however, has not been aimed at casinos. Most likely the problem was the loot boxes. Loot boxes are special packages that players can purchase where they get a chance to earn in-game gems. These boxes are often bought with real money and can therefore be particularly harmful to younger players, as well as people who have difficulty controlling impulsive behavior or have a history of gambling problems.
Last year, the UK government began discussing legislation regarding loot boxes in games. This came after researchers from the country’s universities found that the feature is “structurally and psychologically similar to gambling” and is particularly harmful to children. According to one study, some spend several hundred pounds over time.
The UK government, which called for evidence of loot boxes to review the Gambling Act 2005 in line with 2021, recently said it would publish its response and official documents later this year.
The complexity of gamification
The influence between the two sectors is not just a one-way relationship. Many games, especially slot machines, have been influenced by popular video games. This is usually added in the form of a narrative and story that encourages players to continue playing the slot.
Earlier this year, gaming experts and CEOs met in Malta to discuss the challenges and opportunities of allowing video games to influence the slots genre. The discussion raised the difficulty of gamifying simpler games such as slots, as well as the impact of loot boxes. Mathias Chaparro, who is head of gaming entertainment at Entain, likened gamification to “squeezing a golf ball through a hose,” further highlighting the complexity of game development.
However, the gamification of slot machines can also be seen as appealing to the positive connotations of vulnerable customers. This is especially true when gamifications include popular characters or themes from video games or movies, such as Indiana Jones.
A potential legislative wave
Given the recent staggering popularity and domino effect of gambling sponsorship and sports advertising bans on the European continent, it is possible that more European governments will pick up on the British initiative to review gambling laws. The protection of youth and the prevention of gambling is a national health issue that has attracted a lot of attention already during the last few years and thus formed a solid basis for the new legislation.
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