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New research funded by the NSW Government’s Responsible Gambling Fund, shows young adults are more likely to gamble if exposed to in-game purchases and loot boxes in video games.

Director of the Office of Responsible Gambling, Natalie Wright, said video game loot boxes are virtual games of chance that offer players a randomised reward when opened.

“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,” Ms Wright said.

“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.”

The study by Central Queensland University (CQU), surveyed adolescents about their gaming experiences. Some of their key findings showed 62 per cent of the games they looked at offered loot boxes, and about a third of respondents had purchased a loot box in the last 12 months.

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

Overall the CQU research report found:

  • Loot boxes are common in the best-selling video games – the research report looked at 82 best-selling video games and revealed 62 per cent (51) had loot boxes.
  • In the survey sample, almost all of the respondents played at least one video game with loot boxes within the last 12 months (93 per cent).
  • Compared to other purchasers, young adults, aged 18 to 24 years old, who had recently purchased loot boxes for the first time, were more likely to have gambling problems. However, there was no evidence that earlier experiences with loot boxes predict later gambling problems.
  • Young people 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 (young adults)
  • gambled more frequently (young adults)
  • spent more money gambling (young adults)
  • suffered more gambling problems (adolescents and young adults)
  • suffered more gambling-related harm (young adults), and
  • endorsed more positive attitudes towards gambling (adolescents  and young adults).

To view a copy of the report, please visit the Office of Responsible Gambling website.

For those needing help with gambling issues, help is available 24/7 on 1800 858 888 or through www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au.