Lottery Tickets, Loot Boxes, & the Relationship Between Some Christmas Gifts and Gambling

Ahead of Christmas, gambling industry experts remind gift-givers that certain items such as lottery tickets and video games can contribute to spikes in problem gambling behavior across the country.

Gifting Young People With Lottery Tickets

Lottery tickets have become popular stocking stuffers for families nationwide. Their presence in nearly every convenience store makes them especially convenient for gift-givers, and their thrilling nature makes them an instant win for those on the receiving end. Plus, lottery players contribute to their local community with every purchase — making tickets seem like an added win during the holidays.

However, research has revealed that lottery tickets might not be the harmless gift many think — at least not when gifted to young people. Studies show that the earlier a child is when they first interact with gambling, the more likely they are to experience gambling problems as an adult.

In the US, this childhood introduction often comes in the way of the lottery. And since players must be 18 or older to purchase lottery tickets, “a child’s first exposure to gambling comes in the form of a gifted lottery ticket from a well-meaning adult who may be unaware of the associated risks,” said New York Gaming Commission Chair Brian O’Dwyer.

While perhaps the most notable, lottery tickets aren’t the only example of gifts that could present some unintended consequences this holiday season.

Video Game Loot Boxes & Christmas

Whether it be FIFA or Roblox, many popular video games make use of loot boxes — a type of in-game feature that gives players virtual items that can be redeemed for other virtual items.

Maryhaven gambling intervention specialist Bruce Jones is reminding parents about the hidden dangers of video games this season, warning that loot boxes can lead to gambling problems later in life.

While lottery tickets often provide young people with an introduction to gambling, loot boxes help normalize the gambling experience.

Loot boxes have become a popular add-on in many video games, allowing players to purchase mystery boxes for the potential of unlocking exclusive in-game content and bonuses.

These loot boxes act as defacto slot machines, delivering a random good, bad, or mediocre result to the player. The thrill of snagging a big win is what keeps players coming back for more. However, it’s also what encourages gambling problems in these young, impressionable minds.

When it comes to loot box regulations, the UK is ahead of the US, instating guidelines in 2023 after initially uncovering a link between loot boxes and problem gambling in 2020.The US has no such safeguards in place, leaving it up to parents to regulate their child’s in-game purchases.

2023 Gift Responsibly Campaign Highlights Youth Gambling Dangers

To help educate gift-givers for how certain gifts contribute to problem gambling, a total of 66 lotteries and 84 community organizations have joined forces to launch the sixth consecutive “Gift Responsibly” campaign.

Among this group is the following:

  • National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), based in Washington DC
  • International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours
  • North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries
  • World Lottery Association
  • European Lotteries

The campaign intends to raise awareness about youth gambling risks and promote responsible gambling to those old enough to legally wager. Above all, though, it looks to highlight the fact that lottery products are not appropriate for children.

To accomplish this, the campaign has arranged public service announcements, social media campaigns, and employee training sessions.

Parents Can Educate Young People About Responsible Gaming

Excessive video game play has become commonplace in recent years, with 15-19 year-olds spending an average 11.5 hours per week playing video games in 2022. During the summer and holidays, those hours can add up especially fast.

Fortunately, the holidays also offer an ideal time for parents to educate young people about proper responsible gaming habits and the importance of moderation.

This all begins, of course, with adults remembering that lottery tickets and loot boxes can sometimes lead to some undesirable consequences.

Alec Cunningham is a lead writer and analyst for Lineups.com. She has covered countless online sports betting and casino legislation topics and now specializes in responsible gambling and gambling addiction recovery. In 2022, she served as a panelist at the All-American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry. As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. After working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer, she returned to her love of written word in 2020. Since then, Cunningham's love of sports has led her to become a responsible gambling advocate.

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