Around 55,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem.
England’s top mental health nurse has called on gaming companies to ban loot boxes in their games.
Claire Murdoch, the NHS’s mental health director, warned the gaming firms that they risk ‘setting kids up for addiction’ through including gambling tasks in their games.
The latest figures from the Gambling Commission show 55,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem.
There have been numerous cases of children spending money without a parents’ knowledge – including a 16-year-old paying £2,000 on a basketball game and a 15-year-old losing £1,000 in a shooting game.
In December, a report by the Royal Society of Public Health found that over half of young people believe that playing a video game could lead to gambling and that the link between gaming and gambling is a negative one.
Ms. Murdoch has called on gaming companies to take responsibility for the problem and to make several key changes such as; banning the sale of loot boxes, raising awareness and introducing fair and realistic spending limits.
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes.
“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.”
The Gambling Commission does not regulate some loot boxes due to a loophole meaning it is not classed as gambling – this is due to there being no official way to determine the monetary value of what is inside of loot boxes.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, psychiatrist and founder of CNWL’s National Problem Gambling Clinic said: “As the Director of the National Centre for Gaming Disorders, the first NHS clinic to treat gaming addiction, I am fully in favour of taking a public health approach and bringing in a regulatory body to oversee the gaming industry products currently causing great concern to parents and professionals.
“Loot boxes are only one of several features that will need to be investigated and indeed researched. We need an evidence-based approach to ensure our young people and gamers in general do not continue to be subjected to new and increasingly harmful products without our intervention.