Sociology Subjects

Can we predict problematic esports gambling behaviour among young people? #SOCIOLOGY


Macey, J., & Hamari, J. (2019). eSports, skins and loot boxes: Participants, practices and problematic behaviour associated with emergent forms of gambling. New Media & Society, 21(1), 20-41 [FREE OPEN ACCESS]


Twenty years since the Internet transformed gambling products and services, the convergence of online games and gambling has initiated a new means of consuming Internet-based media. Gambling specifically connected to eSports is a significant development, not only offering a new avenue for existing gambling products to be inserted into gaming media but also affording several novel experiences (e.g. skins and loot boxes). This study assesses participation rates and demographic characteristics of eSports spectators who gamble via an international online survey (N = 582). The sample highlighted the prevalence of young, often under-age, males in eSports-related gambling activities. Participation in gambling, and gambling-like activities, was found to be 67%, with rates of problematic and potentially problematic gambling in the sample being 50.34%. Finally, increased gambling is associated with increased spectating of eSports. Although the results are not generalisable to the wider population, they suggest a need for increased attention, from academia and regulators, regarding newly emergent gambling behaviours in contemporary digital culture.

The Data

Online survey of viewing habits and gambling behaviour sent through Facebook and Reddit, targeting esports discussion pages; 2397 responses, of which 891 complete and 582 used (24.28% of total sent out); 91.9% male; 27% under 18 years;


“51% of respondents reported both spectating eSports and gambling within the preceding 12 months; this figure rises to 67.18% when including the gambling-like experience of purchasing loot boxes”

“42.6% of those who participate in gambling or gambling like experiences having reported paying to open loot boxes”

“increased spectating of eSports is associated with increased levels of gambling both online and directly related to video games”

“those classified as either being problematic gamblers or at moderate or low risk of developing problematic behaviour totalling 50.3% of the sample”

“those who utilise more channels to participate in gambling are more likely to display problematic gambling behaviours”

Our Take on it

Can we predict problematic esports gambling behaviour among young people? Well, this research tell us about different forms of gambling, but also what may be indicators of risk. And while this data does not focus on prediction, it might serve to create ind While the dataset is mostly under 18 years old, one of the big take homes for me is the need for greater digital literacy. For instance, there are negative associations with time spent in esports and average monthly spend on loot boxes, suggesting that the more seasoned player is wiser to their addictive, negative dimensions. It also discovers that there are multiple indicators of risk across different forms of gambling behaviour, which certainly makes it clearer that we can’t just isolate one dimension of esports gambling and hope to understand what’s going on. It all points to greater levels of involvement in supporting players and discouraging gambling behaviour among high-risk participants especially, which may need the industry to develop smarter systems for tracking activity” Professor Andy Miah

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