International edition
July 16, 2019

University of British Columbia highlights the need for gambling regulations within videogames

New research finds a link between loot boxes and gambling

New research finds a link between loot boxes and gambling
The report concludes that loot boxes are a form of gambling in videogames, and suggests that those who are already at risk for problematic gambling may be vulnerable to loot box mechanics.
Canada | 05/10/2019

Researchers found a correlation between excessive engagement with loot boxes and problem gambling. The report suggests including a warning label that states the game contains “loot box mechanics", and to set up a self-exclusion program attached to players’ accounts that prevents them from purchasing certain games.

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esearchers for the Canadian University of British Columbia (UBC) have confirmed a link between loot boxes and gambling. The study, published last month in Addictive Behaviours, found gamers who are drawn to loot boxes — prizes that can be attained or purchased within a game — share similar behaviours with problem gamblers. Loot boxes are typically used to monetize free games.

Lead author Gabriel Brooks, a PhD student at UBC’s Centre for Gambling Research, says their findings are consistent with concerns that loot boxes overlap with gambling, and support the need for gambling regulations within videogames.

For the study, 144 adult gamers from across North America and 113 UBC undergraduates completed online questions that looked at their time spent gaming, and monthly expenditure. The researchers also asked questions based on common gambling research, and assessed perceptions and behaviours related to loot boxes.

Most participants thought loot boxes were a form of gambling. About 90 percent said they had opened a loot box, and more than half reported spending money on them, the UBC report said, as reported by Vancouver Sun.

Researchers also found a correlation between excessive engagement with loot boxes and problem gambling. For example, in both study groups researchers found the majority either did not have a problem or were at low risk for gambling addiction. However, in the North America group of gamers, 10 percent were identified as at moderate risk, and 9 percent were at risk for problem gambling. In the UBC group, the risk for problem gambling was much lower.

Monthly expenditure on loot boxes was an average of $17.5 per month, in the UBC group, while just over 10 percent reported spending more than $50, said Brooks. “Typically we did have an association where the more one spent monthly, the more likely they were to endorse questions that associated with problematic gambling behaviour and/or problematic or risky loot box use,” he said.

The report concludes that loot boxes are a form of gambling in videogames, and suggests that those who are already at risk for problematic gambling may be vulnerable to loot box mechanics. It also highlights the need for regulation.

The report makes recommendations on how to regulate loot boxes in videogames, including a warning label that states the game contains “loot box mechanics.” Another suggestion is to set up a self exclusion program attached to players’ accounts that prevents them from purchasing certain games. Brooks said the report alone would not be sufficient to enact regulation, as more research is needed, particularly the effects of loot boxes on youth.

Loot boxes began appearing in videogames in the mid-2000s and have grown in popularity, according to a UBC release. Players can earn loot boxes as rewards, or they are encouraged to buy them using real or virtual currency. Examples are a new outfit for the character to wear or weapon to use.

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