Skin gambling: teenage Britain’s secret habit
Parent Zone’s report looks into the world of virtual currency betting, where children as young as 13 years old are spending pocket money to gamble online. Our research has shown that, for a large percentage of the UK’s 13-18 year-olds, 'skin gambling' is very much part of their culture.
If you haven’t heard of skin gambling, don’t worry – you are among the many to whom this relatively new phenomenon is something of a mystery. A skin is a virtual item developed for decorative purposes in various video games but, as their popularity has grown, skins have developed individual cash values – turning them into a de facto virtual currency. Like real currency, market forces dictate the value of skins, from a couple of pence up to over £20,000.
Skin gambling has only been around for three years, yet it has been estimated that in 2018 around £10 billion will be gambled online internationally. This rise, on the £6 billion in 2017, shows how quickly this trend is growing, and how we must be alert to the dangers before a generation of gamblers is developed within those who game online.
Via a network of connected but unaffiliated sites, players can gamble and cash in their skin collections. In essence, a network of sites create a virtual casino environment for young people, which is neither regulated nor actioning a robust age-verification process.
Parent Zone's report discovered the eye-opening amount of young people who are doing it – and in some cases losing or winning staggering amounts of money in the process.
Parent Zone has been leading the discussion about children and young people’s safety in gaming.
- In 2019, we released The Rip-Off Games: How the new business model of online gaming exploits children*, a report which explored how the industry encourages them to keep on paying as well as playing.
- In 2019, we also submitted a response to a Call for Evidence on the Social and Economic Impact of the 2005 Gambling Act*, which pointed out that children and young people have been left unprotected.
- In 2018, we published Fortnite: everything you need to know about the online game, which included tips for encouraging children to play safely and in moderation.
*Parent Zone research, reports and policy responses are developed and funded directly by Parent Zone and are entirely independent of any other projects.