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The UK Gambling Commission has declared the “FIFA Pack” lootboxes found in games such as FIFA 18 and FIFA 19 are not considered gambling.
The Commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur gave evidence to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s discussion on “Immersive and addictive technologies,” no doubt fueled by the World Health Organization declaring “Gaming Disorder” an official addiction. You can view the whole discussion here. McArthur stated that while the Commission did have concerns, current laws made it difficult to define the FIFA Packs as gambling.
“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. What that means is that the prize must mean something that is equivalent to money.”
[…] “There are other examples of things that look and feel like gambling that legislation tells you are not – [such as] some prize competitions but because they have free play or free entry they are not gambling… but they are a lot like a lottery.”
In short, because the “prize” from a lootbox can be defined as having no real-world monetary value, it is not considered gambling under UK law. Reasons such as this and more is why the UK Gambling Commission have refuted comparing lootboxes to gambling before.
This is blurred by third-party websites that allow users to buy and sell in-game items for in-game or real money, also known as skin gambling. Despite this, the UK Gambling Commission’s program director Brad Enright stated he was “satisfied” EA had taken measures to prevent it.
“We’ve engaged with EA and where they’ve 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 markets. That said, the very fact that there is expenditure, a chance-based mechanic, children playing the game, we appreciate that that poses significant concerns.”
In addition, both claimed the Commission had taken action against over 20 skin betting websites in the last four years.
In case you missed it, EA also spoke to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee- stating that lootboxes are “surprise mechanics“ and “quite ethical.” Epic Games were also spoke to this Committee, downplaying how much money Fortnite had made under badgering questioning. A US senator has also proposed a bill to ban lootboxes.
EA removed their ability to buy FIFA‘s premium currency “FIFA Points” from players in Belgium, while Belgium vowed to ban lootboxes and began investigating EA. Nintendo and several other studios also pulled their free-to-play games from service in Belgium.