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Children pressured to gamble while gaming

Young people are spending more time gaming than ever before. For the most part, it provides wholesome and harmless fun. It can even be a great escape from the pressures of school life and growing up. However, while in-game purchases have been a long-standing bugbear for many parents, the games industry has started to take things one step further. Now, gamers, especially children, are being enticed into gambling to win extra goodies. This is beginning to have long lasting effects on young people’s relationship with addiction. 


Gaming and gambling

Boy sits and plays a computer game

Skin in the game 

So right off the bat, let's get a few things clarified. A lot of computer games these days are played online. It could be a team-based shooter, such as Counter Strike:GO and Helldivers, or a fantasy role playing game, like World of Warcraft. Within these games there is the ability to customise your character. This is done through, what is known as, skins.  

You want your favourite footballer to have golden boots? There’s a skin for that. You want equipment to have a menacing monster sticker on the side? There’s a skin for that. You want a spray-paint logo of a bloodthirsty wolf? You guessed it, there’s a skin for that. 

Teenagers buying skins is like gambling

By now you are probably getting the gist. The possibilities are endless. And on the surface, it all sounds above board. It is easy to see why young people, especially teenagers, would find this so attractive. If you are spending a lot of time somewhere, you are going to want your own identity, so you can stand out from the crowd. However, the way to acquire these skins is where it starts to get a little bit shady. 

Gaming and gambling for teenagers

Traditionally skins and loot were either earned through certain goals within the game, or could be purchased by adding funds to your gaming account as credit. The part that makes it more like gambling is that often they are contained in “cases” “football packs” or “loot boxes” which gamers pay amounts for without knowing what they are specifically getting. This could be opening randomised player packs, hoping to get Messi for your dream team, or diving into virtual case after case in the hunt for your characters next ninja outfit. 

A lot of this we have already seen in mobile apps and games, where there have been stories of children racking up huge bills for their parents by purchasing in game add-ons. So much so, that regulations had to be put in place to make buying on your mobile and in games more difficult and allow for certain permissions. 

But now there is an even more casino-style system aptly titled “skins gambling”. Here, you login to your account, put your funds in place a bet, watch the graphics spin and either win or lose. Sound familiar? This spin-the-wheel-like system can be very enticing, especially for young minds. It encourages that “just one more” attitude. This is not only damaging financially but it can lead to gambling addictions that continue further down the line. 

young man black hair blue hoody smiling at camera

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Making it play not pay

Making it play not pay

Gambling addiction can quickly spiral, taking over every aspect of a young person's life. The thrill of winning, coupled with the fear of losing, can create a dangerous cycle of gambling behavior that is difficult to break. This addiction not only impacts their wellbeing but also strains relationships. Gambling in the early years of life can be detrimental to mental, emotional and social health of children and can lead to low self-esteem, stress, poor sleep and anxiety. 

Teenager holds credit card next to phone while gaming

Gaming not gambling

That is why it is so important to recognize the signs as early as possible to prevent it having a longer lasting impact. Luckily, the majority of games out there don’t have this gambling element built into them. However, some of the most popular online ones do. This isn’t to say the games themselves are in any way dangerous. They have the potential to provide hours of entertainment. But it is a good idea to be aware of what can happen if we aren’t careful. 

Please check out our online safety work for more. If you are worried you know a young person that is developing a gambling addiction get help at the NHS’ young person gambling addiction service.