Studies Expose Certain Video Games Models as Gateway to Gambling

Gambling has been a point of heated discussions since ancient times, according to historical accounts. Today, lawmakers bicker over the same aspects regarding legality, ethics, usefulness, and so forth, while rightfully attempting to limit the reach of such activities to the underage population.

While responsible gambling may be considered a fit pastime for an adult, it’s effects could be devastating for the millions of underage brains that are still under development. So, if adults enjoy gambling, what do teenagers enjoy aside from bad jokes, social media, and bad jokes on social media? If your bet was on video games, here’s your prize 🏆.

In 2020, scientists took a look at some video game models and came up with new discoveries aimed at complementing information revealed during a past study that mainly revolved around loot boxes in PC titles. What better time to pry at the younglings’ interaction with their PC than during the pandemic, right?

Gaming vs iGaming

Without further ado, University of York spearheaded the data collection in a bid to understand which underlying behaviors may lead to problem gambling years later, without even the participant’s knowledge. Previously, the same scientists exposed a link between loot boxes present in some videogames and problem gambling, as also cited by ScienceDaily. This time, it’s about token wagering, “social casino” games, and real-money gaming.

While loot boxes offer a random assortment of rewards – for a price, of course – powering up one’s in-game character using real money to purchase these perks is at least as damaging, says Dr. David Zendle. Moreover, it appears that more and more gambling-related features begin to pop up in a lot of recent games.

Study Findings

The study took into account nearly 1,100 participants that closely resembled the UK demographics in terms of gender, age, and race. The findings show that approximately 18.5% members come in contact with games that promote gambling habits on a regular basis. Paired with the fact that video computer games can easily slip by regulations aimed at gambling, the authors warn that if left unchecked, this could create a whole new “public health risk”.

Even though not falling under the same category as games of change and websites relating to them, the gambling-related elements that avoid stringent regulation are nonetheless a very real problem, alongside “social casino” videogames. The latter are capable of delivering a very convincing gambling experience. However, as Dr. Zendle explains, the only reason they are not branded and subsequently regulated as games of chance is because players’ winning cannot be converted to cash.


Harsh scrutiny on loot boxes came down in 2019 when researchers asked British lawmakers to forbid such transactions aimed at underage audiences altogether. Furthermore, they also emphasized that purchasing loot boxes should be classified as gambling.

Should you expect new legislation on video games? The only thing Dr. Zendle and his team seem to be aiming for is a better grip on such transactions and the target audience. The push should be welcomed by the gamer population, at the very least, as efforts – if successful – will see them receiving more rewards than mystery, as it’s currently the case.

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