Loot Boxes and its Potential Introduction to Gambling Addiction to Minors

By: Jordan Rosario

            With a cellphone in the palm of our hands, the possibilities are endless, as well as the potential habits formed by minors as they are exposed to loot boxes through online gaming. The usage of smartphones has risen dramatically among minors, such that, by the age of 11, 53% have their own cellphone.1 On the Google Play Store, approximately 58% of the top games contained loot boxes.2 As for the Apple Store, 59% of the top games contained loot boxes.3 On both platforms, most of these games were categorized as suitable for children over the age of 12.4 Loot boxes, which are a type of microtransaction in video games, provide players the opportunity to pay real money in order to get a return, such as cosmetics, specific animations, or weapons.5 With certain types of loot boxes, there is an issue of randomization, where an individual is making a purchase, and does not know what they will receive.6 A study in the United Kingdom has shown that many loot box consumers are children and that of the 93% of children in the United Kingdom who play video games, between 25-40% have purchased loot boxes.7

            With an increase of loot boxes in video games, the legal issues that arise are whether loot boxes constitute as gambling, whether the rating of games should be impacted as a result of loot boxes, and whether video game companies should disclose the odds of obtaining items through loot boxes.8 Some countries throughout the world have taken steps to regulate loot boxes as well as commence studies to determine the level of risk for gambling addiction that loot boxes can impose on youth.9 For example, in the United Kingdom, studies have established a link between loot boxes and gambling behavior.10 Even in the United States, state legislatures have tried to introduce bills that would regulate loot boxes; however, all have failed to pass.11

 As for the federal level, United States Senator, Josh Hawley, introduced a bill that would ban features in video games categorized as “manipulative”, which included loot boxes.12 Under this proposed bill, the state attorney general would have the ability to sue gaming corporations on behalf of state residents for issues regarding the sale of loot boxes.13 Aside from the introduction of this bill, no other action has been taken so far.14 While this bill is pending, a decision on the federal level with Senator Hawley’s bill may bring change on how the United States will take steps to regulate loot box usage by minors.


1 Victoria Rideout & Michael B. Robb, The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, Common Sense Media, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/2019-census-8-to-18-full-report-updated.pdf (last visited Sept. 5, 2021).

2 David Zendle et al., The prevalence of loot boxes in mobile and desktop games, 115 Addiction 1768, 1768-72 (2020).

3 Id.

4 Id.

5 David Zendle et al., Adolescents and loot boxes: links with problem gambling and motivations for purchase, Royal Soc’y Publ’g (June 19, 2019), https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.190049#d1804600e2115s.

6 Id.

7 James Close & Joanne Lloyd, Lifting the Lid on Loot-Boxes – Chance-Based Purchases in Video Games and the Convergence of Gaming and Gambling, BeGambleAware, https://www.begambleaware.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/Gaming_and_Gambling_Report_Final.pdf (last visited Sept. 5, 2021).

8 Julia K. Kadish & James G. Gatto, The Legality of Loot Boxes: A Primer, Nat’l L. Rev. (Dec. 1 2020), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/legality-loot-boxes-primer.

9 Nicholas Straub, Every Country With Laws Against Loot Boxes (& What The Rules Are), Screenrant (Oct. 5, 2020), https://screenrant.com/lootbox-gambling-microtransactions-illegal-japan-china-belgium-netherlands/.

10 Loot Boxes Linked to Problem Gambling in New Research, BBC (Apr. 2, 2021), https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56614281.

11 Kadish, supra note 8.

12 Makena Kelly, Game Studios would be banned from selling loot boxes to minors under new bill, The Verge (May 8, 2019), https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/8/18536806/game-studios-banned-loot-boxes-minors-bill-hawley-josh-blizzard-ea.

13 Id.

14 S. 1629, 116th Cong. (2019).