GamCare Highlights the Potential Harm Loot Boxes and Skins Betting can have on Young People

By | October 26, 2021
Reading Time: 3 minutes


GamCare has said that the financial harm caused by loot boxes and skins betting is “a growing concern for many families and professionals working with young people”.

The comments come as the charity’s financial harm manager Raminta Diliso examines the relationship between the financial harms of online gambling and gaming with young people, and how it can be addressed.

Gaming-related products are growing in popularity but currently fall outside the jurisdiction of the Gambling Commission. The financial harm caused by these platforms is a growing concern for many families and professionals working with young people. While GamCare does not currently receive calls to their helpline regarding gaming, this may change in the future as the UK government is examining whether loot boxes could be classed as gambling, has launched a call for evidence earlier in the year.

The two most prominent products in games are loot boxes and skin betting. Loot boxes are “mystery items” embedded within games that can be purchased for randomised rewards, including “skins”. “Mystery items” are mostly made up of content that can give the player a significant in-game advantage over their peers, whereas “skins” are entirely cosmetic items that can be used by the player to customise their avatars and stand out. Young people can end up spending significant sums of their parent’s money in the hope of uncovering something of value. Valuable skins can then be traded in for real money on third-party websites.

GamCare recently facilitated a workshop to take a closer look at the issue of gambling amongst children and young people. The event brought together over 60 representatives from different sectors including financial services (banks, building societies, electronic money institutions), debt advice, gambling businesses and gambling support services as well as those who have been harmed by gambling from a young age.

The Gambling Related Financial Harm Project Steering Group, which includes organisations such as Santander, NatWest, Betting and Gaming Council and PayPlan, has called for a cross-sector response to drive these changes forward. The Group believes that all sectors could take an active role in preventing gambling-related financial harms for children and young people.

Recommendations from Gambling Related Financial Harm Steering Group:

  1. Gambling blocks on all under-18 bank cards

Financial services providers could ensure that every financial product aimed at under-18s has a mandatory gambling block. They could also continue raising awareness of gambling blocks amongst young people and students as they are at heightened risk of developing gambling problems.

  1. Gambling and financial education

Financial services firms and financial education charities could help raise awareness of gambling harms as part of their education programmes. They could work in partnership with gambling education charities, who can provide concise information to inform content development.

  1. Limits on gambling spend for young people

More gambling businesses could apply more stringent monitoring and checks on under-25s accounts to ensure that young people are spending within their means. They could also consider a blanket spending limit for all under-25s to further protect young people from gambling-related financial harm (as Flutter has already done).

  1. Preventing the use of credit use for gambling

Banks could consider what measures can be put in place to prevent students and young people from using their overdraft to gamble. The Department of Education could also work with financial services firms and student finance providers to prevent young people from using student loans and grants for gambling.

  1. Separate gambling within games

Gaming companies could separate gambling-like activities (such as loot boxes) within games and review the appropriate merchant category coding (MCC) for these transactions, which may allow banks to block these transactions as part of voluntary gambling blocks.

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