Video games and gambling can seem quite synonymous with one another and for a good reason. There are numerous published research papers out there that draw upon these kinds of correlations and can indeed prove that video games can have an effect on the makeup of our brains and, in turn, lead into behaviors of gambling later on in life or sooner.

But what exactly is the relation between video games and gambling? There are a few tried and tested theories out there, some of which have been proven, some of which have not. The most obvious to go for would be the fact that with video games, players can get a buzz from the game, very much like the buzz we can, and indeed in most cases do, get with gambling.

When you start doing things like playing video games, the next thing that you will want to have is a bigger buzz than the one you have got with the video game. To get this, you will have to start gambling, so is the relation between video games and playing slots that buzz, or is there something else, or more than that, at play?

The root problem of the relation between video games and gambling

Of course, the main issue with the relation between video games and gambling, whatever the relationship may be, is that it pertains to children. The amount of children with problems when it comes to gambling has quadrupled to more than 50,000 in just two years, according to recent reports from the gambling authorities in the UK.

While the report does suggest that the significant increase that had been recorded in 2018 could be down to the way that the data was collected, leading experts say that there is still cause for concern. If there has been an increase in problem gambling amongst teens over the past couple of years, experts think that one of the main factors is the simulated gambling that is prevalent in video games.

Lottery with looting

In video games, loot boxes rates, cases, chests, bundles, and card packs are all virtual games of chance that can be bought in video games. In order to buy these virtual items, players need to use real money, and the virtual items, in turn, have inside them a selection of rewards that are completely chosen and given at random.

The whole point of this function is to win rare or powerful items, but really the likelihood of winning these items is slim. Due to the low chances, players are usually encouraged and enticed to spend more in order to increase their chances of success, ie, winning rare and powerful items. And, this is not purely down to speculation, we know that there are many popular video games out there which feature loot boxes or something similar.

Indeed, reports by gambling authorities in the UK note that 13 percent of teens aged from 11 to 16 had played gambling style games on the web, and that of these, 31 percent had gotten loot boxes in a video game or via an app to try and acquire in-game items.

But can you really class loot boxes as gambling?

While some people do argue that buying loot boxes is not gambling, this is not always the case. The arguments for this include that the rewards from a loot box will only have any value in the game itself. But, this is not always the case. Independent websites out there do allow players to trade their in-game items or virtual currency for real money.

But, experts argue that the prizes that can be won are actually less valuable than the prizes paid for them, in financial terms, and so it is actually a lottery in terms of what items will be won. Loot boxes have already been outlawed in games in places like Belgium, on the ground that they breach the gambling rules.

Taking the risk

Further data has found evidence of a link between the amount of money that those playing video games spend on loot boxes and the seriousness of problem gambling. Information was taken from a well-sized survey of 7,422 gamers, and this showed that the more money the person spent on buying loot boxes, the more likely the person was to be a problem gambler.

The research concluded that loot boxes did have features that were akin to gambling, and so they could indeed be responsible for the severity of problem gambling, because of the fact that when it came to buying other items in a game these had no relationship with the level of problem gambling.

And while the evidence does not quite show that loot boxes and video games cause problem gambling, it does show a relation that could and should be explored more. There are a whole bunch of theories revolving around this topic – for instance, it could be that problem gamblers are more attracted to buying loot boxes in video games.

But, there is further evidence to show that gambling for free – or simulated gambling – that is prevalent in video games is a risk factor that does increase the likelihood of teenagers that gamble with real money could develop gambling problems. For reasons like this, leading experts do argue that children should be banned from playing any kind of gambling simulation in video games.

Risky games

The games Candy Crush and Runescape have been singled out by experts, as these are ‘wheel of fortune’ games themselves that experts state strongly resemble blackjack, which is a game where players have to pay to spin the wheel for a reward given by chance.

So, there are risky games out there which could, in theory, encourage problem gambling, and video games do indeed have some relation to gambling. The best way to avoid issues arising in this way is to stay away from these kinds of games, and just have fun playing.