Video game

Gambling in Video Games: A New Wave of European Legislation? –

A lot of new research and decision-making within gambling addiction legislation have focused on lessening risk for young adults and children. Simultaneously, one of the most discussed areas of influence for potentially harmful influence for youths has been that of video games. The two overlap in a discussion around the influence of gambling through video games, which is garnering more attention as governments are taking action.

The topic of similarities between video games, gambling, and the real world is an old one. For the past decade, the issue of violence in video games has especially been brought up as a potential risk for destigmatizing and normalizing violence in the real world.

Today, through the introduction of things such as esports and crypto currency, the similarities between gaming and gambling have gained more attention. This is partly an effect of the increased demand for and accessibility of online casino websites such as, as well as the introduction of gambling-like elements in gaming such as loot boxes.

Gambling at casinos in video games

Gambling elements have often been incorporated into video games as they add to the adventurous rebellion that is often crucial to the storylines. Games such as “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” and “Fallout: New Vegas” offer several opportunities to gamble at casinos throughout the game and to complete missions that urge players to return to the gambling institutions every so often. Players are welcome to play both slots and card games where they can win or lose their currency earned in the game.

New bans in Europe

Like in sports, there is an argument that the visual connection between gambling and a favorite sports team – or in this case a favorite game – creates a positive connotation. In other words, if a certain type of gambling is used in relation to a person’s favorite video game, that person is more likely to think positively of it and be willing to try it. This argument is one of the main reasons behind the continental sweep of sponsorship- and gambling advertisement bans in soccer leagues all over Europe.

The Loot Box Issue

The biggest issue with gambling in video games lately, however, hasn’t been directed at the casinos. Rather, the problem has laid with loot boxes. Loot boxes are special packages that players can buy where they get a chance to earn in-game valuables. These boxes are often bought with real money and can therefore be especially damaging to young players, but also people who have a hard time controlling impulsive behavior or have had problems with gambling earlier.

Last year, the British government began to discuss legislation regarding loot boxes in games. This happened after researchers at the nation’s universities found the function to be “structurally and psychologically akin to gambling” and especially harmful to children. According to one study, 40% of all game-playing children buy loot boxes, and some spend several hundred pounds over time.

The UK government, which had a call for evidence on loot boxes to review the 2005 Gambling Act under 2021, recently stated that they would publish their response and white papers later this year.

The gamification complexity

The influence between the two sectors isn’t just a one way relationship. Plenty of games, especially slots, have been influenced by popular video games. This usually takes the form of adding a narrative and a story that keeps gamblers interested in continuing to play the slot.

Earlier this year, gaming experts and CEO’s met at the CasinoBeats Summit in Malta to discuss the challenges and opportunities that comes with letting video games influence the slot genre. The discussion brought up the complexity of gamification of simpler games such as slots, as well as the impact of loot boxes. Matthias Ciappara, who is Head of Gaming Entertainment at Entain, compared the gamification to “squeezing a golf ball through a hose pipe”, further implying the complexity of game development.

However, the gamification of slots games can also be seen as alluring to the positive connotations of vulnerable customers. This is especially true if the gamifications include popular characters or themes from either video games or movies such as Indiana Jones.

Potential legislation wave

Given the recent overwhelming popularity and domino effect of gambling sponsorship and advertisement bans for sports across the European continent, it is not unimaginable that more European governments pick up on the British initiative to revisit gambling legislations. The protection of youth and prevention of problem gambling is a national health issue which has gained a lot of attention already during the past few years, and has thus formed a steady base for new legislation to rest on.





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