Purchasing loot boxes in video games associated with problem gambling risk, says study: The lines between gaming and gambling have begun to blur, state researchers

Gamers who buy ‘loot boxes’ are up to two times more likely to gamble, shows new research published today in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction Research & Theory.

They are also more likely to have a gambling problem compared with the gamers who don’t purchase these ‘virtual’ treasure chests, according to the findings based on more than 1,600 adults in Canada.

The authors say the results cast doubt on the theory that psychological factors create the link between gambling and loot boxes — banned by some countries including Belgium and discussed for legislation in many others worldwide.

Their study demonstrates that the association between these video game features and gambling exists even when childhood neglect, depression and other known risk factors for gambling are taken into account.

The authors say their findings have potential implications for policymakers and for healthcare. They are calling for more research into the benefit of harm minimization features, with some online platforms having already implemented these — such as telling players the odds of winning when they buy a loot box.

“Findings indicate that loot box purchasing represents an important marker of risk for gambling and problem gambling among people who play video games,” says Sophie Coelho, a PhD student at York University, Toronto.

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