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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.

We have seen a rise in gaming/skill-based elements in gambling, and an increase in gambling-related elements in online gaming over the years. There are growing concerns surrounding the blurred lines between gambling and gaming, which is likely to become more widespread given the rise and reliance of technology (King et al., 2015).

One such technological development is the emergence of "loot boxes" in various video games, which is a type of micro-transaction that players can purchase (with real money). However, unlike other in-game purchases, players don't know what's inside these "loot boxes" before they buy them. Contents are randomly generated, and range between weapons, skins, or advancement opportunities (Abarbanel, 2018).

There is some debate as to whether "loot boxes" should be considered a form of gambling.

Supporters of "loot boxes" argue that they are not gambling because the prizes have no financial worth as they can only be used in the game (Abarbanel, 2018). 

Opponents argue that "loot boxes" fit the very definition of gambling, meeting all 3 elements of gambling classification outline by Abarbanel, 2018 :

1. Consideration (risking something of value, e.g. purchasing "loot boxes" with real money)
2. Change (element of uncertainty, e.g. contents of "loot boxes" are unknown and randomly assigned)
3. Prize (potential reward or outcome, e.g. contents of "loot boxes" can be used to advance in the game)



Abarbanel, B. (2018). Gambling vs. gaming: A commentary on the role of regulatory, industry, and community stakeholders in the loot box debate. Gaming Law Review22(4), 231-234.

King, D.L., Gainsbury, S.M., Delfabbro, P.H., Hing, N. & Abarbanel, B. (2015). Distinguishing between gaming and gambling activities in addiction research. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 4 (4),

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According to Abarbanel 2018, Great Britain, Denmark, and New Zealand have all rules that “loot boxes” does not currently meet regulatory definitions of gambling. However, a number of countries (mainly in South East Asia) do view "loot boxes" as a form of gambling and have begun updating their policies! (Griffiths, 2018).

I am curious to know what North America's stance on the issue is!

Similar strategies to 'loot boxes' are also used in children's party venues, such as Chuck E. Cheese, which have arcades that are worryingly similar to the slot machine section of a casino. Have you seen how kids behave in these types of venues? I watched my 5-year-old at a party there behave strangely like someone with a gambling addiction. It gave me the chills and never took him to a party there again. There was an interesting article about this very topic:

Last edited by Registered Member

I’d like to share some thoughts on the differences between loot boxes and gambling:

  • You always GAIN something from loot boxes. Whereas in gambling, there is also the possibly that you may LOSE as well.
  • You can’t gain financially from loot boxes as you do in gambling. Putting money into a loot box never gives you money in return like gambling does.

Even though these two things don’t match the criteria for gambling that you listed in this tread, they are two significant differences. In this way, loot boxes are more similar to baseball cards (hockey cards here in Canada 😊), rather than gambling.

Although there is currently no legislation in Canada or the USA on the regulation of loot boxes, the ESA boards have stopped gaming companies from producing skill-based gains from loot boxes. So, players who purchase these will no longer advance in the game, but only have opportunities to gain items to assist their quests or “skins” (aesthetics). The ESA boards are also moving towards disclosing the odds getting a chosen item within the loot boxes prior to purchase (something better than baseball card companies offer!).

With all of this aside, if the main concern with loot boxes and gambling is that people are concerned that loot boxes are causing players to become more “addicted” to video gaming, research shows that player motivations to play more and play for longer periods of time rarely have anything to do with the chance an item will drop from a loot box.

Interesting. The Skinner method used in video gaming creates the pull for longer play. Winning at random intervals has been proven to keep a player engaged long after they are even interested in the game, compared to winning each and every time time. In terms of Loot Boxes, offering a biological need like food, water, or sex always has a satiation point where one becomes full and loses interest. However, offering non-biological needs like gold coins and ammunition that will take a player to the next level encourages play long after the player is bored or even uninterested in the game, much like the Skinner theory. Studies I have read show that this does in fact keep a player attached to a game for much longer periods of time.


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