The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have called for evidence that loot boxes should be considered gambling.
EA even removed premium currency from FIFA 18 and FIFA 19 after Belgium authorities deemed loot boxes as being on-par with gambling. In addition several companies pulled their games from service within Belgium.
In 2018, the UK Gambling Commission refuted the claim made by some media outlets that loot boxes are akin to gambling. In 2019 the UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended the UK government ban the sale of loot boxes to children, after its nine month inquiry into “immersive and addictive technologies.”
The inquiry involved speaking to industry representatives, including game developer representatives, social media representatives, trade bodies, and academics. Some felt the proceedings were intentionally badgering.
In any case, there were blunderous comments by some. EA representatives claimed loot boxes were “surprise mechanics,” while an Epic Games representative said they “would disagree with the statement that Epic makes money from people playing the games.“ The report laments that “some representatives” chose to lie, in the committee’s opinion.
While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) would recommend a ban on games with loot boxes aimed at children in January of this year, UK trade body The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) reiterated many tools and methods are already in place.
Now, UK news outlet The Guardian reports that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has also called for evidence that loot boxes should be classified as gambling.
Should ministers decide that looboxes would be deemed gambling, game developers could pull their games from sale or service in the UK, or remove the mechanic entirely. This has been seen in Belgium, after they declared loot boxes and gambling were one and the same [1, 2].
Labour MP Carolyn Harris- who is chairing the bi-partisan group investigating the claims- stated that loot boxes “are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalise and encourage young people to take a chance. All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling.”
As stated in a prior report, the crux of the loot box argument seems to center around whether it is the responsibility of the parents or the government to prevent children from accessing materials or actions that could be inappropriate or ruinous. Similar arguments occurred in the past over violence, and sexual content.
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Image: Overwatch fan Wikia