Should Video Game Gambling be Banned?
Carlos’ Cartridge Column
By Carlos Lee
Gambling has been a hot issue in the gaming community that has taken on many forms over the years. The traditional format first saw change around 2011 with Rockstar’s L.A. Noire introduction of season passes, an extra cost before the game is released for bonuses and downloadable content. Early conditioning for dishing out more money has enabled companies to see how far they can stretch profits. Consequently, the new trend of gambling and randomized ‘loot boxes’ have seen large profit gains toward a primarily younger audience.
On Sept. 7 of this year, the Gambling Commission, a non-departmental government agency in the United Kingdom, released an international statement on the growing concern of gambling in games. The declaration, signed alongside 15 countries and Washington state, says that “we are increasingly concerned with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming.” Four areas of concern have already been placed in the statements scope of gambling: Skin betting, loot boxes, social casino gambling and gambling content in children’s video games.
Lawmakers in the Netherlands and Belgium have already taken steps in dealing with video game gambling. Both countries have directly targeted the “loot box,” where players can pay a fixed amount with a random chance to win an item of varying rarity. The real issue lies in the fact that these items could be sold for real money; players will be more inclined to purchase loot boxes with a perception of profit. These countries have put publishers under fire by placing a deadline to remove the loot boxes or face a hefty fine. Statements from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), New York-based organization that places content ratings by age for video games, have been outright denied by international video game regulators.
The popularity in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO), Overwatch, DOTA 2, and FIFA 18 has had a huge influence. For example, in 2011, DOTA 2 saw an international competition with a prize pool of $55 million. Afterward, CSGO saw an enormous jump with tournaments that were accessible to any home television. As CSGO is a relatively cheap game at $15, it employed the loot box system. Over time, the CSGO market boomed, with players valuing certain in-game items. Item prices fluctuate but the best example can be seen by the AWP dragon lore, an in-game sniper rifle skin that offers no advantage. When a special, less available version was available in the loot box, it sold for a whopping $10,000. Currently, it has a steady price of roughly $4,200 which can be viewed on several websites that specialize in trading and price statistics.