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NHS mental health director urges game developers to ban loot boxes

“Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction"
NHS mental health director urges game developers to ban loot boxes
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Video game companies should help battle gambling addiction by banning loot boxes from their products, said NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch.

Due to the growing concern surrounding the mechanic, the NHS has revealed it will open a new treatment centre as well as up to 14 new NHS gambling clinics across the UK to address significant mental ill health that is linked to addiction.

This is all part of a new long term investment plan to improve mental health in the country, with a minimum of £2.3 billion ($3.02 billion) extra funding set to be rolled out over the next five years.

The mental health director has put out a request to all video game companies to:

  • Ban the sales of games with loot boxes that encourage children to gamble
  • Introduce fair and realistic spending limits to prevent people from spending thousands in games
  • Make clear to users what percentage chance they have of obtaining the items they want before they purchase loot boxes
  • Support parents by increasing their awareness on the risks of in-game spending

Figures from the Gambling Commission show reported that 55,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem, while the NHS itself estimates that approximately 400,000 people suffer from a serious gambling issue in England.

"Sales should end"

"Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes," said Murdoch.

"No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end.

"Young people's health is at stake, and although the NHS is stepping up with these new, innovative services available to families through our Long Term Plan, we cannot do this alone, so other parts of society must do what they can to limit risks and safeguard children's wellbeing."

In September, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended that the UK Parliament should regulate loot boxes as gambling, with children seen most at risk.

Even before this, the three main console manufacturers Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all agreed to make developers reveal loot box odds for new game releases on their platforms from 2020.