Safer Online Gambling Group (SOGG) has accused gambling operators, as well as app developers and affiliates of priming children to become gamblers when they are of a legal age to bet.

Research has been published by SOGG, which shows that young people and families could be losing over £270m each year in the UK through so-called ‘loot boxes’ which offer the chance to gain greater players or upgrades in video games and mobile apps, in return for cash.

The survey has also documented an apparent rise in adverts which are being shown for betting to minors on social media and also through affiliate advertising platforms inside mobile and tablet based games.

SOGG’s founders, Adam and David Bradford will be handing their research to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, and they are calling on the industry, as well as the government, to act.

The Bradfords want the government to hold affiliate marketers to account for content displayed to young and vulnerable people in apps. It is also calling on gambling industry audit affiliate marketers and marketing agencies to ensure young people are screened out of advertising.

“From the age of three it is theoretically possible for young people to access content which may simulate gambling like behaviour, or expose them to gambling adverts inadvertently, due to lax controls on advertising affiliates and the addictive nature of in-game paid for features such as buying virtual currency like coins and  jewels or extra players and power boosts,” SOGG said in a statement.

“We think it is careless of the video games industry to not do more to prevent children from spending so much money, with little ID checking, in some cases where parents are totally unaware.

“Companies should also make loot box content transparent, including disclosing odds of gaining better players for instance.

“We also think betting companies need to ensure their marketing does not display on games marketed at under 18s, via affiliates or otherwise and call upon regulators and the government to do further research into these areas.”