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Skin betting is luring 11 year olds into the world of online and offline gambling

Published: 16:35, 12 December 2017
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A man playing online poker in front of a laptop on a green table with chips all around

UK Gambling Commission's annual report for 2017 has a new section devoted to gambling with in-game items. The section brought attention to the problem of skin gambling among young people. Of the 11 percent of 11-16 year olds who had ever bet with in-game items, more than a third (36 percent) had done so in the past seven days.

"Betting with in-game items on computer games/apps" is a new section in the UK Gambling Commission's annual report for 2017. The section serves to explore awareness of and participation in ‘skins betting’ among young people. 

The word 'Skins', as we all know, refers to all in-game items that provide cosmetic alterations to a player’s weapons, avatar or equipment used in the game. Skin betting sites that allow gamers to use cosmetic items obtained or purchased in a video game as tokens have been around for several years.

Google Images A man throwing his poker chips at the camera while holding a pair of aces Gambling

"The Gambling Commission takes the view that the ability to convert in-game items to cash, or to trade them (for other items of value) means they attain a real-world value and become articles of money or money’s worth," says the report. 

When gambling with the use of in-game items that can be converted into cash or traded (for items of value), a gambling licence is required. Tackling operators making gambling facilities available to children is one of the Gambling Commission’s priorities. 

For the purposes of this survey, with the aim of ensuring as much comprehension of the activity as possible, the topic was introduced to young people as follows: ‘When playing computer games/apps it is sometimes possible to collect in-game items (eg weapons, power-ups and tokens). For some games, it is possible to bet these in-game items for the chance to win more of them.’ 

UK Gambling Commission A pie chart depicting the results of the in-game items gambling survey UK Gambling Commission

Young people were first of all asked if they ever play computer games or apps these days. Those who answered ‘yes’ were then asked if they were aware of betting with in-game items and if they had personally done so (and if so, how recently). 

Here are the results:

  • 45 percent of 11-16 year-olds were aware of "skin betting"
  • 59 percent of boys knew about the activity 
  • 31 percent of girls knew about the activity
  • 11 percent of 11-16 year-olds had placed bets using in-game items

The activity is more widespread among boys (20 percent) than girls (3 percent). Older respondents were more likely to answer the question "Have you bet with in-game items?" with an affirmative answer.

  •  3 percent of 11 year olds had done so compared to
  • 14 percent of 14-16 year olds

Valve Team Fortress 2 characters sitting around a poker table Team Fortress 2

Young people who had spent their own money on gambling in the past week were more likely to bet in-game items as well (24 percent). Same goes for those who had played online gambling-style games (30 percent).

Of the 11 percent of 11-16 year olds who had ever bet with in-game items, more than a third (36 percent) had done so in the past seven days, 23 percent within the past month, and 41 percent more than one month ago.

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