Parliament to probe links between gambling and video gaming

10 December 2018

The UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is to investigate links between video gaming and gambling as part of a new inquiry into “immersive and addictive technologies”.

The inquiry will focus primarily on new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, as well as the growing popularity of esports. The increasing digitisation and “gamification” of people’s lives will also be examined, to ascertain whether the existing regulatory landscape is sufficient to protect consumer rights, whilst helping the sector to grow in the UK.

In-game purchases, especially with regards to their effects on children, will also come under scrutiny, as well as the blurring of lines between video games and gambling.

To date there has been little action against the convergence of video games and gambling, with the UK Gambling Commission maintaining a watching brief on elements such as loot boxes. These see players rewarded with a randomly-assigned virtual item in return for cash, and are prevalent in games such as the Call of Duty and FIFA franchises.

Regulators in the Netherlands and Belgium claim that loot boxes use the same mechanics as a slot machine, and have forced developers to make changes to the games in each country.

The committee has invited the public, organisations and other relevant stakeholders to submit evidence for the inquiry by January 14.

“During our recent inquiries, the committee has heard repeated concerns about the impact to society of the increasing amounts of time that people spend immersed in online worlds, and the potentially addictive nature of social media and gaming,” said the committee’s chair, Damian Collins.

“We want to explore these concerns during this inquiry and consider what the right response should be in setting public policy for the future.

“The committee will also consider how individuals’ online data is used by immersive technologies and what security is offered.”

According to the committee, spending on gaming in the UK hit a record £5.11bn in 2017, up 12.4%  on the previous year. The committee also cited a study by the British eSports Association that global revenues from competitive video gaming are expected to reach £1bn by 2020.

“We’re seeing industries emerge that offer enormous potential for growth such as esports and gaming where the UK is rightly regarded as a world leader in production,” Collins added.

“We’ll be looking at what action is needed to ensure we remain a key player. Technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality is already an important asset to the film industry, simulated training, and gaming. We want to understand more about its potential and the future impact it could have on society.”