Gambling: Video Games

Department for Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered at on 2 May 2024.

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Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Scottish National Party, Lanark and Hamilton East

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether her Department (a) has and (b) plans to make an assessment of the potential impact of micro-transactions in video games on levels of spending among children and young people.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Scottish National Party, Lanark and Hamilton East

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether her Department has made an assessment of the potential impact of micro-transactions in video games on gambling behaviours among children and young people.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Scottish National Party, Lanark and Hamilton East

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has had discussions with her Belgian counterpart on regulating micro-transactions in video games as gambling.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Scottish National Party, Lanark and Hamilton East

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether she plans to increase regulation of micro-transactions in video games.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

The Government monitors the impact of microtransactions in video games on players, including children and young people. In 2020, we launched a call for evidence on loot boxes in video games which found an association between purchasing loot boxes and problem gambling, although no causal link has been found.

We have since welcomed new industry-led guidance to improve protections for players and meet the following Government objectives that:

  • purchases of loot boxes should be unavailable to all children and young people unless and until they are enabled by a parent or guardian; and

  • all players should have access to and be aware of spending controls and transparent information to support safe and responsible gaming.

We are working with industry and academics to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the new guidance and will provide an update following the 12-month implementation period, and independent academic scrutiny. We continue to keep our position on possible future legislative options under review. We monitor developments in other international jurisdictions, including Belgium, although no recent discussions with Belgian counterparts have taken place.

Whilst the new guidance relates to paid loot boxes specifically, a number of the measures are relevant to in-game microtransactions more broadly, particularly for children and young people. This includes driving awareness of and uptake of parental controls, and running a three-year £1 million public information campaign to provide information to players and parents about safe and responsible play

We have also published a Video Games Research Framework to improve the evidence base on the impacts of video games, including microtransactions and player spending. The Framework outlines the research topics and priorities which we have identified as core areas in need of further research. This includes better understanding of the impact of different monetisation features on players’ experiences, and the effectiveness of mechanisms to mitigate the risk of problematic spending behaviours.

While some microtransactions share similarities with traditional gambling products, we view the ability to legitimately cash out rewards as an important distinction. In particular, the prize does not normally have real world monetary value outside of the game, and its primary utility is to enhance the in-game experience. The Gambling Commission has shown that it can and will take robust enforcement action where the trading of items obtained from in-game microtransactions does amount to unlicensed gambling. Microtransactions within video games - including loot boxes - are also subject to consumer protection legislation that protects against misleading or aggressive marketing.

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