Loot boxes leave three quarters of young gamers with addiction, regret and anger, a study has found.

The survey of people aged between 13 and 24 who played video games, carried out by the Gambling Health Alliance (GHA) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), also suggested that nearly half try to hide how much time or money they spend on games.

Loot boxes have become a common part of video games and allow players to purchase extra characters or items with money or win them through gameplay.

They have been likened to gambling by critics and earlier this week the Children’s Commissioner said she was concerned they encouraged children to “chase losses” in order to get the best rewards.

The GHA has today launched a campaign for the boxes to be classed as a form of gambling and banned from games played by under-18s. The Government is currently consulting on how to tackle any potential harms.

A spokesman for Ukie, which represents the gaming industry, said companies had already taken “major steps” to provide transparency and control over in-game spending following the concerns.

Duncan Stephenson, deputy chief executive of the RSPH, said video games have “slowly and steadily been polluted with gambling features”.

He added: “Many young people today face a gamble every time they log on to play their favourite game and we are concerned that this could very well normalise gambling for a generation of young people.”

Loot boxes explained

A joint statement from Carolyn Harris and Ronnie Cowan, MPs on the parliamentary panel on gambling related harm, said: “The increased prevalence of loot boxes within games aimed at younger audiences is a huge concern.

“It’s shocking that games which contain loot boxes and therefore an element of gambling at a financial cost are not required to disclose this on either packaging or websites.”

The Ukie spokesman said the industry promotes controls on consoles enabling players to limit or block in-game spending.

He added: “We’ve also added a ‘paid random item’ descriptor to our age rating system and probability rate disclosures to our platforms to inform players about loot boxes in games.”