How the Evolution of Games Has Led to a Rise in Gambling Concerns
Recently, there has been a frenzy of legal activity with U.S. gambling laws and the number of gambling-related legal issues with video games. U.S. gambling laws have changed more in the past few years than they have in a long time. Significant state law changes have occurred concerning online gambling, sports betting, fantasy sports, and skilled-based games, to name a few. Some significant recent changes under federal gambling law have also occurred. The evolution of certain aspects of games by the game industry—particularly those involving loot boxes, casino-style games, and chance-based mechanics with virtual items—has raised the perception of certain gambling-related issues. Despite being prohibited by game publishers, players’ engagement in unauthorized activities (e.g., selling virtual items on secondary markets and “skin gambling”) have exacerbated these issues. The financial success of these monetization techniques has led to greater legal scrutiny. The rise of eSports has also implicated sport betting issues.
The gambling-related legal issues with video games are still being resolved. A significant debate is occurring. Some argue the game industry is so profitable because it delivers a compelling entertainment experience to a broad demographic of people who are willing to pay for that entertainment. Others claim games have become addictive and include elements that constitute gambling. This paper will not resolve that debate. However, it will:
- provide an overview of US gambling laws;
- address significant, recent changes in US gambling laws;
- identify factors that have led to the rise in gambling issues with video games;
- summarize recent enforcement activity involving games; and
- provide some perspective on what may lay ahead.
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