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Gambling-Like Youth Activities May Contribute to Problem Gambling, Review Finds

Published: April 10, 2023

Among responsible gambling advocates, it is common knowledge that exposing children to gambling behaviors when they are young puts them at a higher risk for a problem with gambling when they get older. Less well understood, however, is the relationship between gambling-like activities and problem gambling. A recent review of 45 published academic studies on the topic provides some insight. 

To create the review, researchers from Hamline University in Minnesota and McGill University in Canada searched databases of published studies through November 2021, according to an article in Psychiatry Advisor. Their findings were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 

The researchers found 15 studies that evaluated video games and problem gambling. Four of those studies found that playing video games frequently during adolescence was associated with an increased risk of developing a problem with gambling when youth got older. 

The researchers found that age was a significant factor in some of those studies, with teenagers and emerging adults who played video games being more likely to also have gambled. Males were more likely to have engaged in activities with gambling-like elements, and to be at greater risk for developing a problem with gambling. 

Seven of the studies evaluated loot boxes, which are in-game boxes that players buy with real-world money. Like a slot machine, they offer the chance to get a random reward. The studies found that people who did not struggle with a problem with gambling spent far less on loot boxes, about $3.64 per month, than people who did. People who were struggling with problem gambling spent about $21.30 on loot boxes a month. About 72 percent of e-sports bettors also reported buying loot boxes. 

“Results from the articles included within this systematic review indicate that behaviors involving emerging technologies such as online forms of gambling and activities with gambling-like features are concurrently associated with problem gambling,” the researchers wrote and called for additional research. “Longitudinal evidence for these behaviors as predictive of problem gambling remains mixed. Moreover, certain emotional and cognitive vulnerabilities appear to exacerbate the risk for symptoms of problem gambling.”

With gambling-like activities still being studied and children frequently exposed to numerous forms of gaming and gambling, preventing youth gambling is more important than ever. The Change the Game Ohio campaign is here to help. On you can learn more about the dangers of youth gambling and access guides for youth, caretakers, and educators to help start a conversation. 

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