The Gambling Commission is advising parents to be on their guard against the gambling-related dangers of video games.
The warning follows the publication of a Commission paper on virtual currencies, eSports and social gaming, which emphasises an increase in the popularity of unregulated third-party websites offering gamers the opportunity to bet skins, in-game items such as decorative digital guns and knives, on gamble on the outcome of video game tournaments.
One US report estimates the global skin gambling market was worth between $3.9b and $5.1b in 2016, and predominantly moderated via illegal websites.
Last month the Commission brought about the prosecution of two men, who admitted to being directors of Game Gold Tradings Limited, a company which operated and advertised FutGalaxy.com – an unlicensed gambling website.
Sarah Harrison, CEO at the Gambling Commission, says: “Mums and dads could be giving money to a child thinking that they are playing a computer game when in fact they are gambling and this is a real worry.
“Gambling on eSports with in-game-items is growing and we need to make sure all gambling is fair, safe, crime-free and protects the young and vulnerable.”
A survey featured in the paper indicates that 8.5% of people have gambled on eSports and 90% of those that gambled had done so with in-game items.
Harrison adds: “These unlicensed websites are a hidden form of gambling – they’re parasites feeding off popular video games, presenting a clear and present danger to players including kids. Our prosecution last month demonstrates that we won’t hesitate to take action.”
Tracey Crouch, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, supported the paper and stresses the importance of the Commission’s warning: “It is vital that any form of gambling online is properly regulated and paramount that we protect children and vulnerable people.
“eSports is a phenomenon that gets bigger every day and is enjoyed by millions, but it is a concern that there are unlicensed websites jumping on the back of popular video games and encouraging children to gamble.
“The Gambling Commission has shown that it will take action and prosecute but it is important that parents are vigilant too and know about this risk to their children.”