Over the past few years, esports betting and skin gambling have taken off as a new wave of gambling and gambling products. Esports are professional video gaming competitions, and skin gambling is the betting of in-game digital items such as visual enhancements to characters that have monetary value. There has been an increase in both esports events and skins use in recent years as video game play has gained in popularity, and these innovations can be bet on or used as a prop for gambling. Gambling operators accept wagers on esports events much like they would accept bets on sports.
Greer et al., 2022 completed a cross sectional (a study that looks at data from a population at one specific point in time) online survey of esports participants aged 18+. Their main aim was to test the conceptual relationships between video gaming involvement, video-game betting, traditional gambling and the impacts of gambling. The core research questions that guided the research were: are video game behaviors associated with greater frequency of esports or skin gambling; does greater frequency of esports betting or skin gambling mean higher involvement in traditional gambling activities and vice versa; and how much gambling-related harm do esports and skin gamblers experience?
What did they do?
The researchers completed a cross sectional online survey of adults that had gambled in the last 6 months on esports cash betting, esports skin betting or skin gambling on games of chance. The sample was made up of 737 adults 18+ from the US, UK, and Canada. Demographic information was collected, including age, gender, marital status, education level and personal income. Video game and esports consumption was measured by frequency of video gaming, video game purchases, frequency of esports viewing and esports playing by type. Gambling disorder was measured using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) (Orford et al., 2010) and gambling harms were measured using the Short Gambling Harms Screen (Browne et al., 2017). The PGSI is a scale from 0-27 that categorizes gamblers by scores into different risk groups. The SGHS measures how many gambling-related harms a participant has experienced, from 0-10. Statistical measures were then executed to understand relationships between involvement and game-related gambling.
What did they find?
The study authors found that purchasing skins within a video game was associated with greater frequency of esports skin betting and skin gambling on other games of chance, while more frequent esports viewing predicted more frequent esports betting. Esports cash betting frequency predicted higher frequency of traditional gambling activities such as casino table games, sports betting and fantasy sports betting. The main takeaways from the research: “Skin gambling is directly implicated in gambling problems and harm, whereas cash betting on esports is only indicative of interest in many forms of potentially harmful gambling” (Greer et al., 2022, p. 1).
This article, while informative on an emerging realm of gambling activity, is not without limitations. Limitations include the cross-sectional nature of the research design because the researchers could not infer causation from associations, as the data is just a snapshot in time. Additionally, the sample size is small and made up of only adult esports/ skins bettors, and thus these results are not generalizable to the general adult population. Another issue, which could be related to the sample of only bettors, is the high percentage of the sample that scored as “Problem Gambling” on the PGSI (30.4%). The prevalence of gambling addiction in the US is around 1%, so it is important to keep in mind this sample is only of esports gamblers. However, this is one of the first studies to try to understand how new gambling products may be associated with gambling harms and paves the way for future studies.
Browne, M., Goodwin, B., & Rockloff, M. (2017). Validation of the short gambling harm screen (SGHS): A tool for assessment of harms from gambling.Journal of Gambling Studies,34(2), 499–512.
Greer, N., Rockloff, M., Hing, N., Browne, M., & King, D. (2022). Skin gambling contributes to gambling problems and harm after controlling for other forms of traditional gambling.Journal of Gambling Studies,Online.
Orford, J., Wardle, H., Griffiths, M., Sproston, K., & Erens, B. (2010). PGSI and DSM-IV in the 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey: Reliability, item response, factor structure and inter-scale agreement.International Gambling Studies,10(1), 31–44.