NSW Responsible Gambling Fund warns of growing concern of loot boxes

The New South Wales Government’s Responsible Gambling Fund has issued a warning surrounding the dangers of loot boxes following newly funded research undertaken by the Central Queensland University.

Warning that the study “shows young adults are more likely to gamble if exposed to in-game purchases and loot boxes in video games,” it is asserted that “loot boxes bear a close resemblance to an (unregulated) traditional gambling product”.

The CQU research surveyed 1,954 individuals, with 47 per cent of the participants aged 12-17 with the rest between 18-24, about their gaming experiences.

Some of their key findings showed 62 per cent of the games observed offered loot boxes, with around a third of respondents having purchased one in the last 12 months.

Additionally, the median monthly expenditure on loot boxes for adolescents aged 12 to 17 was $50, with that figure rising to $72 for young adults aged 18 to 24 years.

Natalie Wright, director of the office of responsible gambling, commented: “Loot boxes can resemble gambling since players invest time and sometimes money in obtaining them, then receive a random reward of uncertain value such as weapons or outfits for their characters.

“They are a growing concern because of the risk and reward elements associated with them that is similar to gambling and there are currently no age limits to play these games.”

Highlighting a growing concern of the “risk and reward properties that closely align them with traditional gambling” as well as “encouraging greater gambling involvement,” the subsequently published report aims to develop a deeper understanding of the risks posed by loot boxes to adolescents and young adults in NSW. 

Further findings reported that compared to other purchasers, young adults who more recently first purchased loot boxes were more likely to have gambling problems. Conversely, there was no evidence that earlier experiences with loot boxes predict later gambling problems.

It was further suggested that those across both demographics who had either opened, bought or sold loot boxes within the last 12 months were also more likely to have gambled in the last 12 months, gambled more frequently, spent more money gambling, suffered more gambling problems, suffered more gambling-related harm and endorsed more positive attitudes towards gambling.