Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director, has put pressure on gaming companies by calling for an outright ban on loot boxes in video games.

NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: “Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes. No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end.

“Young people’s health is at stake, and although the NHS is stepping up with these new, innovative services available to families through our Long Term Plan, we cannot do this alone, so other parts of society must do what they can to limit risks and safeguard children’s wellbeing.”

The launch of a new gaming-focused addiction treatment centre has highlighted the need to deal with addiction to computer and mobile games – and loot boxes mechanics, which some say mirror certain gambling products, have been criticised.

In July 2019, the Gambling Commission made its position clear on loot boxes when programme director Brad Enright confirmed they did not fall within current legislation.

A range of measures has been introduced in recent years to curb access to gambling by minors. New casinos and established providers alike must adhere to these ever-rising standards, which include the elimination of slot game imagery that appears to target youngsters and a ban on free-play games to players who haven’t verified their age.

The latest official data indicates a long-term reduction in gambling participation by 11-16s since 2011. The loot box phenomenon could indicate that the problem has not been solved, but instead has gone under the radar in new forms not currently under the remit of the UK’s gambling regulator.