UK National Health Service warns videogame loot boxes set kids up for addiction and gambling

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An NHS (UK health service) director has warned video games set young people up for addiction by including gambling mechanics in the form of loot boxes. 

The NHS mental health director, Claire Murdoch, has said video game firms are teaching kids to gamble by building games around the controversial lootbox mechanics. 

Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes,” said Murdoch. “No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes, those sales should end.” 

Murdoch’s comments are in response to the growing concern surrounding gambling in video games and its links to mental health and addiction. A report published in 2018 by the Gambling Commission showed that 55,000 children in the UK are classed as having a gambling problem, many of these linked to video games. 

In an attempt to combat gambling in video games and the addictions that may follow, the NHS is setting up 14 NHS gambling clinics with a focus on providing support to young people dealing with addiction. 

Murdoch explained, “Young people’s health is at stake, and although the NHS is stepping up with these new, innovative services…we cannot do this alone, so other parts of society must do what they can to limit risks and safeguard children’s wellbeing.” 

Due to the nature of loot boxes, there is no official way to monetise the rewards contained within, meaning that according to current gambling legislation, The Gambling Commission does not regulate loot boxes as, technically, the players aren’t gambling. Feel free to sling some air quotes around ‘official’ though, as there are plenty of nefarious and/or underhand methods for extracting money out of loot box contents or in-game items. There’s a roaring trade on eBay for Fallout 76 weapons, for example, while it’s a full-time job for Valve to try and prevent fraud networks in CSGO.

A few suggestions have been made to help combat the pervasiveness of lootboxes, including introducing spending caps, transparency for loot box odds, and the banning of games with loot boxes all together, but so far, nothing has been legally implemented within the UK, or most other territories for that matter.

What are you thoughts on loot boxes? Do you think they play a role in ‘setting kids up for addiction’?