Bangor University student Ryan’s addiction to ’skin betting’ spiralled so far out of controlled he struggled to buy food.
Ryan’s love of gaming turned into gambling when he was 15 and he became involved in skin betting, four years later he has lost more than £2,000.
Skins are collectable, virtual items in video games that change the appearance of a weapon – for example, turning a pistol into a golden gun, they’re popular in games like ‘Counter Strike Global Offensive’ (CSGO) and although they’re purely cosmetic, they can acquire a value depending on how rare they are.
In CSGO, players can exchange real money for the chance to obtain a modified weapon known as a skin and a number of gambling websites have been built around the game.
Skins become a virtual currency and third party sites enable gamers to gamble their skins on casino or slot type games, skins can then be “Cashed Out” as real money.
Ryan said: “I’d get my student loan, some people spend it on expensive clothes, I spend it on gambling virtual items.
“There have been points where I could struggle to buy food, because this takes priority.”
Ryan wanted to build an inventory of skins, but when he could not afford the price tag attached to some of them he began gambling on unlicensed websites to try to raise money.
He said: “It’s hard to ask your parents for £1,000 to buy a knife on Global Offensive, it’s a lot easier to ask for a tenner and then try and turn that into £1,000.”
The skins gambling industry is estimated to be worth around £3bn worldwide, and the gambling commission says it’s one of their ‘top priorities’
Many skins gambling sites are based in Russia and target their games directly at young people, with children as young as eleven gambling regularly.
Ryan said: “It’s quite obvious it’s aimed toward younger people, they’re less responsible with their money, they’ll fall for flashy animated pictures.
“When I used one site the only age protection was one pop up saying are you over 18, one click and there you go, you can now spend as much money as you want, there’s no gamble responsibly, it’s just a free for all.”