Research project ‘Gam(e)(a)ble : the blurring lines between gaming and gambling and its impacts on young people'

Promotor: prof. dr. Eva Lievens 
Researcher: Pieterjan Declerck

Short description

The lines between gaming and gambling are becoming increasingly blurred in (online) games that are popular among teenagers, which rises the societal concern that minors are being progressively exposed to gambling. Games that include non-monetary forms of gambling (simulated gambling) such as free casino games as well as in-app purchases of so-called loot boxes or packages operate in a grey zone due to the lack of an obligatory strict classification system. This makes it hard for parents and teenagers to see potential risks. The convergence of gambling and gaming is a recent phenomenon, triggering a significant expansion of new forms of online gambling activities that are more covertly and unrestrictedly than traditional land-based, offline gambling and therefore potentially more problematic. 
Studies on simulated gambling have only recently begun to be published and no studies have been following young simulated gamblers during their developmental stage. Early exposure to gambling elements in games may make this young age cohort more likely to gamble later in life and to develop problematic gam(bl)ing behaviour. Therefore, this project is built around 4 major societal concerns and research needs that will result in valorisation tools:
 media research to a) build a labelling system of gambling elements and dark design patterns in games popular among teenagers, and b) unravel the relation between exposure to persuasive media content on gambling (advertising, sponsoring, online social influencers) and teenagers attitudes towards gam(bl)ing and actual behaviour
 the construction of a future proof regulatory legal framework to protect and empower consumers (minors in particular)
 longitudinal psychological development study following early simulated gamblers resulting in parental advisory workshops and a measuring instrument to detect risky gam(bl)ing among teenagers
 prevention tool development from a pedagogical perspective usable for caregivers/ welfare services.