Canadian youth problem gambling expert Dr. Jeff Derevensky has recently made a strong argument about loot boxes in video games. In an interview, the specialist, who has studied the incorporation of gambling into gaming argued that the popular mechanic in many games is allowing children to gamble and that is something parents should be wary of.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, loot boxes are in-game rewards purchasable with virtual currency or real money, and their contents remain hidden until bought. Their randomness makes it a game of chance or a sort of gambling. They can also contain player characters, cosmetic items, weapons, tools, or access to new game features in various video games.
Loot Boxes are Basically Gambling
In a recent interview, Dr. Derevensky shared that over the last few years, he and other experts have been studying the amalgamation and merger of betting and gaming. He noted that some of these games are online and such products are designed for fun, but people can actually tune into the game and start gambling with real money.
He also fears that gaming companies are not worried about making kids future gamblers but instead, they are alarmed about present gamblers. The expert said that by purchasing loot boxes people are essentially participating in a gambling activity while also spending a fair amount of money, in order to get one of the prizes from the box, which have no value in the real world.
Video game firms are not allowed to offer gambling in Canada, and on top of that these loot box mechanics predominantly appeal to young people who are not able to gamble legally. That is something that needs addressing, said Dr. Derevensky. In addition to that, there have been some long-time alarms that loot boxes encourage gambling behaviours, especially in young individuals.
Previously, Dr. Derevensky commented that he also wants to educate teachers on the potential harm to children exposed to gambling at an early age. This was in connection to many teachers hosting wagering pools in the classrooms or having run casino nights for kids and their parents for real money. The expert warned this is dangerous even in small samples and can lead to children getting overly involved.
He also discussed how over the last few years, gambling has become more normalized and socially acceptable due to its growth. While also remarking that currently everyone including children is flooded with gambling ads, which has increased risks for children, while also noting that prevalence rates of gambling in teenagers can be as high as 80%.
B.C. Court Rules Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling
In March this year, a Supreme Court judge from British Columbia ruled that Electronic Arts’ loot box mechanic is not a form of gambling. Justice Margot Fleming argued that gambling involved the risk of losing or gaining something of real-world value, and that is why she does not consider loot boxes in video games to be a form of gambling activity.
Source: Briggs, Dave “Expert: Video Game Loot Boxes Allowing Kids In Canada To Gamble” PlayCanada, October 3, 2023