There’s a new internet danger for parents to concern themselves with and it doesn’t involve violence, pornography or creepy strangers lurking in chat rooms.
No, the latest nasty that parents should be worried about is online gambling which, according to recent reports, is finding an increasingly youthful audience via video games.
The UK Gambling Commission has expressed concern at video games that could be coaxing children into betting online in return for ‘skins’. Skin gambling has been attracting a lot of publicity lately, most of it unfavourable it must be said, with US lawmakers also decrying the burgeoning trade.
Children may not realise they are gambling
The practice involves players dabbling in a thriving black market for in-game accessories such as attire and weaponry, as popularised by the phenomenally successful CS:GO.
The danger is that children who are lured to unlicensed third party websites, which typically encourage players to wager on eSports tournaments, may not even realise that they are gambling. And, in a conventional sense, they’re not, yet the effects can be every bit as insidious and addictive.
“Mums and dads could be giving money to a child thinking that they are playing a computer game when in fact they are gambling and this is real worry. Gambling on eSports with in-game-items is growing and we need to make sure all gambling is fair, safe, crime-free and protects the young and vulnerable.”
Sarah Harrison, UK Gambling Commission Chief Executive
It would be easy to dismiss the notion of kids getting hooked on skin gambling as another case of scaremongering, up there with jenkem and other urban myths. It should be noted however that there is some evidence of illegal gambling ensnaring kids in such a manner; last year two Essex men were fined more than £250,000 after pleading guilty to operating an unlicensed gambling site, FutGalaxy.com, that kids were found to be playing at.
Proper regulation is essential
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Tracey Crouch also stepped into the debate, noting: “It is vital that any form of gambling online is properly regulated and paramount that we protect children and vulnerable people. eSports is a phenomenon that gets bigger every day and is enjoyed by millions, but it is a concern that there are unlicensed websites jumping on the back of popular video games and encouraging children to gamble.”
It was inevitable that there would be an eSports backlash, as is the way when any emerging trend or industry enters the mainstream.
While it is too early to say whether skin gambling is in danger of exposing a new generation of kids to gambling, it is something that lawmakers will be watching closely as eSports continues to grow, captivating a young and impressionable audience in the process.