Gambling and Skin Betting in Video Games

Charles Romano

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Gambling in video games has grown to be a large problem over the past few years, especially within games such as Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2, which have in-game loot boxes that contain content you cannot usually gain otherwise. Other games, like Counter Strike, have third party sites for them, which allow players to spend money to gamble on earning in-game content, or turning those rewards back into cash.

                Overwatch is an online First Person Shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment that released back in 2016. Since its release, the game has since grown in popularity. In the game, there is a system called loot boxes, which allow you to spend money in order to get in-game items. Normally, there would be nothing wrong with this. The problem, though, is that the in-game items that are won are completely randomized. You don’t know what you’re getting until you actually earn the items. This technically considers the Loot Box system that Blizzard Entertainment has in place to be gambling, according to The Gambling Commission’s 2017 report about the topic.

                Multiple other games are also guilty of putting a system in place that could potentially interest gambling to a younger audience. Star Wars Battlefront 2, a game that was released in late 2017 by Electronic Arts, also has a Loot Box system in place, and is the game that caused this problem with gambling to grow. In the last few months of 2017, though, EA had halted the purchase of Loot Boxes due to this problem. They had said that this change would be reversed after some changes had been made to the game, though as time goes on, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the date when these Loot Boxes will be added back is never going to arrive. This is far from a bad thing, considering it helps reduce the problem with in-game gambling.

                The problem is not only inside of the respective games, which brings up the problem of “Skin-Betting.” Skin-Betting is where through the use of third-party websites, players are able to bet on in-game items for certain games, allowing them to potentially make actual money on these virtual items. This also puts a price on some of these virtual items, giving them a value that they shouldn’t normally have.

                The Gambling Commission has been working with multiple gaming companies such as Valve and EA to attempt to shut down these sites, and so far, everything has been working out rather well with multiple sites have either shut down, or being forced to remove any form of skin-betting from them. As far as legality is concerned, skin-betting is considered gambling, and as such, people getting involved in it who are caught doing so can, and will, potentially face the normal punishments with the law involving underage gambling. Overall, it’s not something that’s very smart to get involved with, as well as the fact that it’s illegal. Avoiding these games isn’t necessarily the way to go, but staying away from in-game purchases and skin-betting sites will definitely help to stay out of trouble, both legally and financially.

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