Definition: Gaming

Gaming is playing a game on an electronic device such as a PC or laptop, games console, tablet, phone, or other handheld device.

Gamers who are in control of their gaming, and play at a healthy level for them, can experience a range of benefits from playing video games such as improved reading and communication skills, improved empathising with others, and a boost to mental wellbeing. However, gaming can also become a harmful behaviour, such as becoming a gaming disorder, as well as other associated risks such as cyber bullying, isolation and missing out on sleep.

There are three main reasons why we need to be thoughtful around the links between gambling and gaming:

  1. Psychological and behavioural similarities
    Video games and gambling games have important psychological similarities. Both make use of stimulating graphics and sounds to engage players and keep them playing.128
  1. Similar risks and harms associated with excessive play
    Excessive gaming or gambling can lead to harmful patterns of play, and gaming or gambling disorders.129
  1. People who gamble may be more likely to be gamers, and vice versa
    In young people aged 16-24, some evidence indicates that people who gamble are more likely to play video games, and gamers are more likely than non-gamers to gamble.130

Like gambling, gaming often uses variable rewards. We learn behaviours more quickly when rewards are randomised like this - a win could happen at any time and you don't know when. This can encourage people to keep spending and make spending difficult to track.


Loot Boxes

Definition: Loot boxes

Loot boxes are an item you can purchase or receive in a game that contains a randomised reward. A loot box might contain points, power-ups, equipment, or ‘skins’ for the player to use within the game.

The key feature of concern in loot boxes is that their contents are chance-based - purchasers do not know what they will get. Game companies may advertise the possibility of getting rare or valuable items through loot boxes, but often without disclosing that the odds of getting those items in any given loot box are quite low. Gamers buy loot boxes for many reasons - and some of them are common reasons for gambling, for example, excitement, the thrill of near misses, peer pressure, temptation or compulsion, boredom or escaping promotion or ads.

Although the occasional monetary purchase can seem harmless, it is the associated behaviours which can become a habit and that can lead to harms associated with gambling such as financial, health and relationships.

For further information around loot boxes, watch this video.





Definition: Esports

Electronic sports in which people play video games against each other, either professionally or for fun.  Popular e-sports games include first-person shooter games (e.g. Call of Duty), football and other traditional sports games (e.g. FIFA), battle arena games (e.g. League of Legends), and battle royale games (e.g. Fortnite).

As many of the professional games have become live competitive events they have become a popular place for gambling operators to offer bets on the outcomes of the event as they would do for live sports events.  There is concern around this given that these esport events often attract young people who are underage.


Social casinos

Definition: Social casinos

Casino games that are free to play, with no money either to play or to win. Like casino games they create a feeling of anticipation, uncertainty and excitement.

Social casinos often use outcome algorithms that are not random, but rather designed to enhance player engagement and satisfaction. This may give some players the impression that they might be ‘good at gambling’ if they played with real money.