GambleAware calls for tougher action on loot boxes

GambleAware has joined growing calls for the government to revise its recent policy update on protecting minors and young audiences with video game incentives/engagements. 

Last week, DCMS revealed new industry measures to be adopted by video game platforms and publishers that will restrict the purchase of ‘loot boxes’ without parental consent.

The ‘parental locks’ were deemed as the headline measure of the government’s consultation on new video game safeguards that had been issued in 2020.

DCMS acknowledged parental concerns that loot box incentives mirrored gambling engagements – however it  decided that loot boxes would not form part of the government’s ongoing review of gambling laws.  

The decision was immediately criticised by Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza, who stated that DCMS had left Children to be “exposed to financial and psychological harms.

De Souza also claimed that DCMS had been overly reliant on industry feedback that had recommended parental locks as a simple fix to children purchasing loot boxes.

Issuing a response to DCMS, GambleAware explained that it held long-standing concerns of loot boxes normalising gambling behaviours – citing that “40% of children play video games.”

GambleAware praised the department for tightening age verifications and spending controls on video game platforms – but stated that further protections required legislative action.

The charity reflected on growing concerns that gambling had become a part of British children’s day-to-day lives.

“There are around 55,000 children experiencing gambling harms aged between 11 to 16 in the UK, according to the National Audit Office, with a further 85,000 estimated to be at risk and we believe more needs to be done to prevent harm among children and young people,” GambleAware noted. 

Responding to criticism, DCMS has stated that it was open to reviewing its policy on loot boxes, with guidance provided by a new working group of  “publishers, platforms and regulatory bodies to develop industry-led measures to protect players and reduce the risk of harm”.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries informed that parental locks and video game safeguards would form part of the government’s ongoing review of digital safety policy –  in which it plans for Britain to become the leading regulated market for “the multi-billion-pound video games sector by providing the safest environment for to play games on”.

GambleAware concluded: “Research has shown that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling, and therefore more adequate protection would help to prevent future gambling-related harms.”

“We look forward to the publication of the ‘Video Games Research Framework’ later this year, which we hope will guide and inform legislation to protect children and young people from gambling related harms through video games.”

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