Gaming has become such a popular activity for children and young people. Aside from the immersive experience it offers, it creates opportunities to socialise with one another and compete in various ways. In more recent years, the practice of skin gambling (or betting) has become more apparent within gaming communities as a way for individuals to add another layer of competitiveness to their own online play. As well as this, those who choose to watch gaming events instead, have also been seen to engage with skin gambling; betting on predicted outcomes or results from other players.
What is a skin?
Skins are virtual items that you can accumulate inside a video game to decorate weapons or characters. Skins sometimes give the player an advantage in the game, but most skins are just cosmetic items to customize the look of the character.
A gamer either earns skins as rewards when they get to new levels, or they can buy skins from a store within the game, often through loot boxes. Some skins are harder to get in a game, while others are more common. Some skins are bought and sold for thousands of real-life dollars.
What is Skins Gambling?
Like with other sports, people want to bet on the outcomes of these matches. Some people will use real cash while others can bet their skins on third-party websites. Some of which allow you to exchange your skins for cash, so placing a bet with a virtual skin can be the same as gambling with actual money.
This also links in with Loot Boxes, which I spoke about in the above video on my YouTube channel.
What are the risks involved & what do parents need to be aware of?
As skin gambling sites are third party, there is no age verification system in place. Many of these sites are unofficial, meaning they have no safety regulations in place either. These sites are very easily accessible and many underage users participate in skins gambling.
The growth of skins gambling's popularity is largely down to video sharing websites, such as YouTube, with some videos amassing over two million views. Vloggers record themselves gambling with skins, often filming big wins.
Two popular vloggers, known as Syndicate and TmarTn, uploaded videos of themselves betting with skins on CS:GO Lotto, a third party skin gambling site - but failed to inform players that they owned the site as well and were making money off it.
Their videos showed them gambling with weapon skins and winning large amounts of money. The videos, with titles like ‘HOW TO WIN $13,000 IN 5 MINUTES’, were viewed millions of times.
The blurred line between gaming and gambling.
Gambling is illegal for people under 18, and in some areas under 21, in part because the adolescent brain is not fully developed to accurately weigh the associated risks and financial costs of a gambling action.
The risk of addiction
This is especially true for youth. Research shows that the younger a person is when they start gambling, the higher the risk for developing later gambling problems, even if they don’t think of themselves as a gambler.
Gambling or gaming problems may have serious negative impacts on a young person’s physical and mental health. Problems can show up as anxiety, depression, financial debt, poor school or work performance, and conflicts in relationships with family and friends.
Advice on how to deal with skins gambling - found on the extremely useful swgfl website.
- Monitoring and discussing financial transactions: Young people may use your credit cards to make purchases online. Make sure you encourage young people to discuss what they want to buy online before they make purchases. Consider setting an approval option on all transactions, or establish a healthy spending limit for online accounts so purchases never exceed an agreed amount.
- Discuss the topic of gambling: Although available through gaming, skin gambling is still gambling and can be just as damaging if not maintained properly. Have discussions about what problems can arise when it comes to betting money (or virtual currency), how easily it can get out of hand and how ideas of winning large amounts of rewards can sometimes come at a great cost, often leaving us worse off than when we started. There’s more information available at the gambling commission website.
- Discuss the importance of money: Skins or bets can cost varying amounts of money and when faced with something desirable, putting things into perspective can be difficult. Try and get them to think critically about what they are actually getting with a purchase. Maybe offer an alternative and show why something may be not worth the cost, ‘Did you know for that money you could buy . . .’
- Encourage discussion when faced with problems: If engaged in skin gambling, problems can occur that may need your help. No matter what the problem is, always show that you are willing to listen and support them with whatever their worries are. If in a situation where you are concerned about the immediate safety of a child then phone the police.
- Ensure strong cyber-security is in place – Third party skin gambling platforms may be readily available, but it opens up questions around their security and how safe they are to use. Ensure that your cyber-security software is up to date and provides warnings towards malicious or unsecure sites.
- Understand terms and conditions – Having a clear idea about what platforms do and do not allow can assist with helping to report accounts that may be violating community guidelines.
As always my most important message is that of communication, if you build a level of trust with the child and discuss things with them, they are far more likely to be open to advice offered and be aware of the risks involved.