December 13, 2017 // 12:05 p.m.
A report from the UK's Gambling Commission has warned that children as young as 11 are being sucked into the habit through 'skin gambling' in popular multiplayer games like Valve's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
In a first for the organisation, the Gambling Commission's annual report on young people and gambling has this year has looked into 'awareness and participation rates for gambling with in-game items when playing computer games or apps, an activity often referred to as 'skins betting,'' something the Commission has previously avoided classifying as gambling so long as there is no way to cash out your 'winnings.'
'Overall, based on the description provided within the questionnaire, 45 percent of 11-16 year olds were aware that it is possible to bet with in-game items when playing computer games or app-based games,' the report claims. 'Almost six in ten boys (59 percent) knew about this activity compared to less than a third of girls (31 percent). The survey found that 11 percent of 11-16 year olds claimed to have personally ever bet with in-game items. The activity was more prevalent among boys (20 percent) than girls (three percent).
'Older respondents were more likely to have bet with in-game items: only 3 percent of 11 year olds had done so compared to 14 percent of 14-16 year olds. The incidence of betting with in-game items was higher than average among young people who had spent their own money on gambling in the past week (24 percent) and those who had played online gambling-style games (30 percent). Of the 11 percent of 11-16 year olds who had ever bet with in-game items, more than a third (36 percent) had done so in the past seven days, 23 percent within the past month, and 41 percent more than one month ago.'
Speaking to the BBC following the publication of the report, Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison warned that while 'skins gambling' on third-party websites where the in-game goods can be converted into money or what the Commission refers to as 'money's worth' constitutes licensable activity, enforcement is a challenge - which, coupled with tying the gambling to traditional video gaming is a problem. 'Because of these unlicensed skin betting sites, the safeguards that exist are not being applied and we're seeing examples of really young people, 11 and 12-year-olds, who are getting involved in skin betting, not realising that it's gambling,' Harrison told the site. 'At one level they are running up bills perhaps on their parents' Paypal account or credit card, but the wider effect is the introduction and normalisation of this kind of gambling among children and young people.'
The report can be read in full here (PDF warning).