The Links Between Online Gaming and Gambling

by MaddOx
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Both online video games and casinos have surged in popularity over the last 12 months. It is certainly no secret that the lockdowns caused by the pandemic meant that the internet, in general, saw an increase in usage but these two areas saw a lot more users as people played on their consoles and smartphones more than ever.

There are many similarities between gaming and gambling, although the video games industry might not want you to think so.

In recent times there has been some vocal concern about the way gambling has crept into some areas of video gaming. Whether it is right or wrong, there are some definite connections and some more that are perhaps tenuous.

These are some of the ways these two industries, online gaming and gambling, crossover. 

The financial value of skins

Some of the links between online gambling and gaming are simply that they can be played on mobile devices or PCs. Other links are far more obvious.

Skins have grown in popularity ever since they first appeared in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS: GO. These items are for the most part a fun way to give your character some customization, along with their armour and weapons.

However, some of these skins are not easy to find, some have been discontinued, and some are just downright rare. This has led to them receiving a monetary value with some of them commanding incredibly high prices.

The perceived value of these skins and the inability to sell them led to gambling. There are now numerous skin gambling platforms across the internet where players can wager their skins against another’s on the outcome of a game. Some of these platforms have allowed children to gamble on them too. 

Tie-in products and themed games

For decades, businesses have been using tie-ins to increase revenue. Whether it is Spiderman lunch boxes or pop-stars on Pepsi cans, tie-ins create money.

Slot machine manufacturers have also noted this and they have used many comic books and video games to add a theme to their product. If you walk into any casino around the world you can see slot machines that are themed around video gaming including titles such as Tomb Raider and Hitman.

Marvel, or rather Disney, decided tie-ins weren’t compatible with a wholesome family image and pulled the last of their superhero characters from slot machines back in 2017. 

Gambling within games

Many people want to know how to make money on gaming and many adverts are promising that you can make real cash by playing apps on your smartphone.

While video games have often had some mini-games involving cards or slots, these particular apps take things a step further. Many of these applications promise that the player will receive X amount of cash via PayPal or an Amazon card once they reach a certain level.

Although this isn’t technically gambling as you don’t have to pay out any cash, there is usually a large commitment to not only playing the game but using up your data by watching a relentless stream of advertising to gain bonuses whilst gaming. 

Borderlands 2 - Video Game vs Online Gambling - In-game casino slots

Loot boxes within video games

This is possibly the area that is most obviously linked to gambling within online gaming. Loot boxes are problematic for many reasons and the British Government is taking a keen interest in them.

In the UK, the government is considering legislation over loot boxes as they are seen as a game of chance and could cause problem gambling, especially in younger players. The UK has very relaxed laws when it comes to gambling activities but there are strict age limits. Video games are easily accessible for a player of any age.

Many games have in-app or in-game purchases, and if these are for a particular skin or weapon then there is no gambling involved. When it involves mystery crates then it becomes a game of chance, which in any other world would be gambling. 

Random number generators

These are used in the most popular online casinos around the world and also in many video games. Random number generators will decide what card turns over on the blackjack table, what symbols drop in on a slot machine, and they also decide what happens in certain instances in video games.

When they are used in loot boxes that are paid for with cash there is a clear link to gambling. However, they are often just used to decide on certain random elements to keep video games fresh and the player returning for more.

For whatever purpose they are used, they are another link between the two types of gaming. An online casino has to rely on this type of technology as there is no real shoe when playing blackjack or poker. When it comes to slot machines though, RNGs are used in traditional casinos also. 

Esports and casinos linking together

There is no particular link between esports and gambling and players taking part win or lose depending on their skill, not chance. But, casinos have taken a keen interest in esports tournaments and some of these look to be closely linked in the future.

The Luxor in Las Vegas is just one casino that has seen the future of this modern sport. The HyperX Esport Arena is open and waiting for tournaments to arrive. Where in the past, and surely again in the future, Las Vegas hosted some big boxing matches with multi-million dollar purses, eSports is now stepping up.

This year will see the International Dota 2 tournament arrive which is promising a record-breaking prize pool of around $40 million. Casinos and sportsbooks have seen the future potential here and soon, people will be able to gamble on players taking part in Fortnite, CS: GO, and other video games. 


Fortunately, for the most part, online gaming is great entertainment but it is interesting to see how many links there are between gambling and online gaming. Where online casinos are very clear about what they do, video games and smartphone apps have more subtle ways to try and part players from their cash or their data and time.

Skin gambling and loot boxes are surely the most obvious link between the two industries. The future might see some big changes to how video games can use the latter while the former could be heavily restricted under gambling laws. Until then though, just keep on enjoying your favorite games.

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