Children as young as 12 are stealing money to bet on casino-based video games online, according to psychologist Emil Hodzic.
“These kids are gambling and also owe people money. When parents find out that their sons have been stealing to gamble, they are shocked,” he said.
Betting on online video games is becoming a lucrative industry. In 2010, Richard Branson launched Virgin Gaming, an online service where players bet and compete for money in games such as FIFA 13. Players have so far lost over $26 million on the website with more than that amount won too.
“[In reference to Virgin Gaming] A person’s drive to chase or recover from their loss will be much more intense as they have lost not only their pride but actual money,” said Hodzic.
Psychologists argue that gambling at an early age increases the likelihood of a diagnosable condition later in life.
Hodzic explained, “With the lack of restriction for online gaming there is a massive problem. This lack of regulation allows a greater chance of exposure during the formative years of a child’s development.
“A lot of children and teens are unaware and vulnerable to being financially exploited.”
Video game gambling made world headlines in South Korea after 10 players illegally fixed and bet on professional Starcraft [an online strategy PC title] matches. Twelve matches were rigged, generating a $120,000 profit.
“There is a major need to improve the safety of youth to online gambling and adult content. There is a massive hole in the net and it needs to be fixed. Sadly, a lot of people do not even know that there is a problem,” said Hodzic. – Story and photos by Martin Gladstone