Top football game ‘sets up children for lifetime of gambling’: Experts warn that £80 Fifa player packs encourage young people to spend recklessly
- Latest version of Fifa video game features player packs or ‘loot boxes’ – costing up to £80
- Research suggests one in four children ends up addicted to buying player packs to boost success in the game
- One in six children are reported to have stolen money from their parents – with some families remortgaging their homes
- NHS warns games can lead to ‘unhealthy habits’ among young players
Children who play the Fifa football video game are being set up for a lifetime of gambling addiction, experts warned last night.
Youngsters have lost thousands of pounds and ended up suicidal after feeling compelled to spend their cash on star footballers for online teams.
The latest version of Fifa, the UK’s best-selling video game which is loved by millions of young fans, was launched by developer EA Sports this weekend.
The new Fifa 2022 game has been heavily promoted by Premier League clubs and England football stars
But the NHS and a coalition of health organisations issued a stark warning to parents that it teaches children to gamble from a young age.
The video game contains a feature where users buy player packs or ‘loot boxes’, costing up to £80, with a ‘lucky dip’ of footballers.
Research suggests about one in four children end up addicted to buy player packs to boost their chance of success on the game.
Some splurge thousands of pounds as they get trapped in a ‘vicious circle’ of trying to secure valuable and rare players such as England captain Harry Kane and France’s Kylian Mbappe.
One in six children say they have stolen their parents’ money to buy players – with some families having to remortgage to cover the costs.
Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director, said: ‘Loot boxes in video games are a real concern and no game should set kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble from a young age. If you’re a parent, go online, do your research and make sure the games your children are playing are safe and do not lead to unhealthy habits.
‘Gambling addiction is an ongoing problem which is why the NHS is opening 14 clinics across the country to offer specialist treatment.’
Jonathan Peniket of EPIC Risk Management, an organisation which minimises gambling-related harm, said Fifa games were designed to be as addictive as possible.
He added ‘EA Sports have a cash cow of unregulated child gambling that they are milking until the regulation comes.
‘There is the damage done to young people from spending money on loot boxes themselves, and also the long-term impact of leading to future gambling addiction.’
The Fifa player packs are a form of loot boxes, an increasingly common and addictive feature of games in which players exchange cash for random virtual prizes.
The Government is under mounting pressure to ban their use by under-18s, as has already happened in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The player packs feature rare players such as England captain Harry Kane and France’s Kylian Mbappe
Fifa is classed as suitable for children aged three and above and there are no legal or age restrictions on spending. Many youngsters report ‘hiding their addiction from family’.
The new Fifa 2022 game has been heavily promoted by Premier League clubs and England football stars, showing the toxic relationship between football and gambling.
The Mail is campaigning for action to curb gambling addiction, which costs the economy £1.2billion a year. EA Sports did not comment.
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