Sheffield children gambling on video game 'loot boxes', report warns

Children in Sheffield are spending hundreds of pounds gambling on video game 'loot boxes', a new report warns.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 10:43 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 11:13 pm
Adam and David Bradford, of the Safer Online Gambling Group, outside 10 Downing Street where they presented the findings of their research into underage gambling (pic: SWNS)

A major survey of underage gambling estimates that young people and families in the UK could be losing more than £270 million a year through 'loot boxes', which offer players the chance to gain upgrades in video games and mobile apps in return for cash.

Research by the Safer Online Gambling Group (SOGG) found one in two young people aged 11 to 18 had used a 'loot box' recently, with the average spend per person on in-game content estimated at £500-600 a year.

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The group's founders Adam Bradford and his father David, from Sheffield, who was jailed in 2014 for stealing money to fund his gambling addiction, visited 10 Downing Street on Wednesday to present their findings.

They are calling for in-game purchasing to be barred by default and for regulations to ensure gameplay does not mimic gambling.

They also want tighter rules to prevent young people seeing gambling adverts, provided by affiliates, flashing up on apps.

Adam, aged 26, claimed the group's findings suggested there was an 'epidemic' of underage gambling and the dangerous practice was rife in his home city.

"It seems to be a topic which is very much on the radar of teachers, who told us a lot of children are betting, with many even doing so while in school," he said.

"We spoke to a handful of governors and about a dozen teachers from secondary schools in Sheffield, as part of our research, and every single one said they knew it was going on to some degree in their school.

"Our research suggests that in Sheffield one in three young people has either tried gambling online or making an online purchase which mimics gambling, or is doing so regularly, which makes it an epidemic."