How Gambling Has Influenced Video Games

In the last few months, the relationship between video games and gambling has become a topic of interest. Not only are parents sharing their concerns but the subject has escalated its way up to national media and politicians too. Before all of this, the only gambling were the working man placing bets on sports like horse racing and football or checking horse racing results.

The culprit? Loot boxes.

Over recent years, loot boxes have become increasingly common and what started as an innovative take on digital gaming is spiralling out of control. The result – an unrelenting addiction to gambling.

Research cited from Medical Xpress suggests that problem gambling has a closer link to loot box spending than other mainstream risk factors like alcohol addiction and drug addiction.

How Do Loot Boxes Work?

While loot boxes are creating complex debates, their concept is quite simple.

A loot box or a prize crate is a virtual item that can be purchased for real money. The contents of the “box” are not disclosed until the transaction has gone through. The “loot” within the box can be anything from weaponry to customisation options for a player’s avatar. The loot will apply to the game you are purchasing through and is intended to help you progress through the levels/challenges.

Many popular video games, including Star Wars Battlefront 2, FIFA Ultimate Team, and FIFA Ultimate Team include purchasable loot boxes and the likes.

Why Is This Considered Gambling?

While EA games argue that “loot boxes aren’t gambling, they’re just like a Kinder Egg”, scientists debate that they are much more dangerous than throwaway toys.

Unlike a lucky packet where the kid is always happy with the “surprise” contents, video gamers are very rarely satisfied with their purchase and continue to spend money on prize crate after prize crate in the hopes that the next one will contain the item they are hoping for.

This hype is taking the biggest toll on teenagers who have been introduced to the world of gambling at a young and vulnerable age. The result is often an unstoppable addiction that spreads to more than just video game gambling.

Is There A Light at The End of The Tunnel?

At the beginning of the year, Google’s Play Store announced an update to say that games with loot boxes purchased through its site must display the odds of finding each item. This way, players know where they stand with each purchase – making it somewhat less of a bet.

Many countries, like the UK, are also implementing their own regulations where loot boxes will not be regarded as gambling if the contents can also be unlocked by gamers while playing the game and progressing through levels (like in old-school gaming).

The Bottom Line

While the relation between loot box spending and gambling remains to be a grey area, the link is considered dangerous regardless of whether prize crates are technically accepted as a form of gambling or not.


  1. What Is A Loot Box? Wikipedia
  2. Researchers find worrying link between problem gambling and video game loot boxes. Medical Xpress
  3. EA games: Loot boxes aren’t gambling, they’re just like a Kinder Egg. BBC News

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