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Gambling, Gaming & Technology Use Community of Interest

The Gambling, Gaming & Technology Use Community of Interest brings together addiction and mental health service providers, researchers and subject matter experts in the fields of gambling, technology/Internet use and video gaming to collaborate and share knowledge on emerging trends and clinical best practices.

Detailed in an article published last week in The Verge, Google Play Store (Google's app store) will require app developers to disclose the odds of winning a prize through loot boxes in their games by September 1. 

Loot boxes are virtual items that players can purchase for a chance to win a prize, such as a "skin" (a cosmetic element that doesn't affect the outcome of a game, like a new outfit for your character). This new policy would also include free-to-play games that offer loot boxes, so players know the odds of winning before they purchase a loot box. 

According to the article, Apple's App Store has required developers to include the odds of loot boxes since late 2017.

What are your thoughts on this move? Do you think this will bring greater awareness about these gambling-like elements within the games or more needs to be done to regulate loot boxes? 

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As a mother whose 12-year-old just spent $50 of his birthday money on loot boxes in Overwatch, having some idea of the odds of his getting the skin of his dreams would definitely have given me a better argument to dissuade him from doing this.  Letting people - usually kids - know the odds would bring into focus the idea that this is gambling, and spark conversations in families that may be less aware. 

I do think that this kind of gambling is insidious for youth.  For this reason, regulation should be considered (just as it is for marketing alcohol to children).  I have not considered what the best form of regulation would be.  Offhand, I think it would be important to state the odds of winning on the same page where loot boxes are purchased, not just when the game is downloaded, for example.

Publishing the odds is very important, however I hope that these odds would be presented in easy to understand terms, instead of just numerically.  We have found that just indicating the odds numerically makes it difficult to have a real understanding of what this means (for adults as well as youth).  Using descriptors in easy to understand terms that are accessible and not in small print and difficult to locate would be required.

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