Loot boxes in video games have been a recent topic of debate for the UK’s watchdog for gambling practices (the Gambling Commission). The regulator has made public announcements stating its concern for this specific element to video games, however has also explained that the country’s current laws surrounding this topic make loot boxes a legal blurred line.
The chief executive of the UKGC Neil McArthur has made the following statement to the Digital Culture, Media and Sport Committee: “[loot boxes] could be a form of gambling but like so much, it depends on the exact circumstances in which they are offered”
McArthur has also commented that “The Gambling Act tells us that gambling means playing a game of chance for a prize, and you can certainly see circumstances where a loot box might fall within that definition, but where things become a bit more complicated are when one looks at the definition of prize, and prize is defined as being money or money’s worth” and that “what that means is that the prize must mean something that is equivalent to money”
Where have these concerns risen from?
Concerns have arisen over loot boxes throughout the country, with some specialists in the field raising concerns that video games are not properly or sufficiently as regulated as gambling practices. Gambling, whilst a fun and enjoyable form of entertainment, must be played responsibly, and so has rules and regulations implemented by the UKGC to lessen the risk of people falling into problem gambling, and simply being able to enjoy the game in a safe environment.
MPs have been claimed to currently be investigating addiction in the tech-entertainment industry, one of its particular focuses being loot boxes in video games. Loot boxes are virtual packs of various different items that can be acquired in video games. Users pay a certain currency (either real or in-game money) to discover the contents of the loot box. Some fear that without proper regulation on such aspects of video games as this, those most vulnerable in society will be exposed to gambling practices that they are not yet mature enough to responsibly play.
Investigations into loot boxes has involved EA’s games, however, Gambling Commissions’ Brad Enright (programme director) has made a statement claiming the following:
“We’ve engaged with EA and where they’re explained the mechanic of the game, the player is clearly playing a game, the fact that it’s randomly determined what players you get means that it’s a chance, it does turn on the prize and whether it’s a prize of money or prize worth […] in this scenario, our understanding is that EA have taken lots of measures to prevent secondary market”