What is Skin Gambling in Gaming?

22 Jul 2022 UK SIC

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.

With children and young people exploring the world of gaming, they may come across opportunities to engage in skin gambling. Find out in this article about what skin gambling is and ways you can help support them with staying safe.

What is a Skin?

A skin is something that gamers can usually purchase or win within a game to change the appearance of their character. Skins can range across a wide scale in appearance and price. They might provide a new outfit for a character or give them a specific look that may be funny or appear relatable to the player from their own interests or likes. Despite providing some aesthetic change, skins usually do not change the mechanics of how a game is played.

Skins can sometimes cost varying amounts of money, which can make some skins appear more valuable than others. Depending on the game, skins can usually be purchased in in-game menus on PCs and consoles using virtual currency. Some games will even offer skins as rewards if players complete specific achievements. Once brought or won, skins are usually stored within the gamer’s profile and available to be used when the player sees fit.

What about Skin Gambling?

Skin Gambling is when players use their skins to bet on online games. A player might bet a skin to say that they will win a particular match. Their opponent would likewise have to put forward a skin to accept the bet. If a player was successful, they would receive their original skin back as well as the opponents. Skin gambling can also be carried out by those who are just spectating; betting on other players in tournaments or livestreams.

The gambling practice is often enabled through third-party gambling sites, letting players bet their skins, holding them in accounts and then distributing the winnings when results are announced. Due to the use of third party sites, skin gambling is mainly seen across PC gaming using player’s Steam libraries (a place for gamers to store their skins and games)

Watch this video from our partners at SWGfL for more info.

What Can I Do If I think A Child Is Skin Gambling?

A common concern is how children and young people can involve themselves in skin gambling without being fully aware of what wider risks might occur. Playing games is an enjoyable hobby, and to some, the idea of betting can seem like an innocent way to make games seem more competitive or challenging. Despite this, children and young people need support in understanding the wider implications of gambling and how easily it can get out of hand. See some helpful tips below for professionals, parents and carers to raise awareness around staying safe.

  • Discuss financial transactions: If a young person is looking to make purchases online, discuss with them what they want to buy, maybe set some spending limits on accounts or talk through what are acceptable purchases and which aren’t. Consider monitoring and approving purchases if they have access to credit cards. These features can usually be accessed within gaming accounts.
  • Discuss the wider implications of gambling: Despite being seen as part of a video game, gambling is a separate behaviour that has its own laws. In the UK, the legal age to gamble is 18 and any third-party gambling site involved needs to hold a betting license. With skin gambling, age restrictions might easily be bypassed due to verifications relying on honesty from the player. There’s more information available at the gambling commission website.
  • Encourage children and young people to seek support if there are problems: If a child or young person comes to you with a concern around skin gambling, ensure yourself or a trusted adult is on hand to support. If you are concerned about the safety of a child then it is always best to phone the police.
  • Encourage critical thinking – Speaking openly about skin gambling and why people online might encourage it can equip children and young people to be fully aware of what it entails and where problems can arise. This knowledge can work towards giving them the confidence to say no and not engage.

For more information, you can read an additional article by our partners at SWGfL as well as read the research paper Loot Boxes, Gambling, and Problem Gambling Among Young People by Heather Wardle and David Zendle.

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