Loot boxes push kids into gambling, says England's NHS mental health director

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Claire Murdoch, mental health director of England's National Health Service (NHS), has reignited the loot box controversy with a report (opens in new tab) claiming they push young people into "under the radar" gambling.

"Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes", she said. "No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end."

Loot boxes aren't currently regulated by England's Gambling Commission because their contents can't be monetized. The report calls this a "loophole" because, "Despite this, third party websites selling gaming accounts and rare items are commonplace and easy to find on places such as eBay across the internet."

Murdoch called on game publishers to ban games whose loot boxes encourage children to gamble, as well as to introduce spending limits, tell players the odds of receiving each item before they buy a loot box, and "Support parents by increasing their awareness on the risks of in-game spending".

As for what those risks are, the report says, "Investigations have found numerous cases of children spending money without their parents’ knowledge, including a 16-year-old paying £2,000 on a basketball game and a 15-year-old losing £1,000 in a shooting game."

Here's our feature on the addictive psychology and seductive art of loot boxes (opens in new tab).

Thanks, RPS (opens in new tab).

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games (opens in new tab). He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun (opens in new tab), The Big Issue, GamesRadar (opens in new tab), Zam (opens in new tab), Glixel (opens in new tab), Five Out of Ten Magazine (opens in new tab), and Playboy.com (opens in new tab), whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.