Similarities between video-games and gambling have led to the proposition that video-gaming could act as a ‘gateway’ activity for gambling. In this paper, we review the major lines of evidence advanced to support this idea, including evidence for the co-occurrence of the two activities; the relationship between problem gambling and problem gaming; and, studies of gambling and loot boxes. Our review suggests that, at best, only a small correlation exists between overall gambling and video-game engagement and this may often be accounted for by underlying demographic and personality variables. We find even less evidence to support a direct relationship between problem gaming and problem gambling. However, problem gambling symptoms appear to be positively related to loot-box purchases. Gamblers who play video-games may be attracted to features that enable them to engage in risk-taking via familiar systems of variable reinforcement. Less evidence supports the view that loot-boxes encourage gambling or facilitate an entry point into other types of gambling, including those associated with gaming (e.g. esports betting). Overall, this review found little convincing evidence in support of the ‘gateway hypothesis’ and suggests that further longitudinal research is necessary to strengthen our understanding of the links between video-gaming and gambling.
- gateway hypothesis
- loot box