Could Loot boxes be classified as gambling?

A hot topic coming with increasing controversy across the gaming community and gambling is loot boxes. Has gaming met gambling in a way that doesn’t offer much, if any protection to children, setting them up for potential addictive traits?

Loot boxes have regularly been discussed, back in autumn last year the topic was discussed in the house of commons. A discussing which led to the deputy leader of the Labour party calling for loot boxes to be classified as gambling. Later in the year saw the Children’s commissioner also call for a ban on loot boxes. As of now no action has been taken.

The topic of loot boxes appears to be top of the controversy list again now as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is going to investigate again before reaching a decision whether it is a form of gambling. More importantly, they’re going to investigate the impact in children and whether it can form addictive behaviour.

What are Loot boxes and how big is the industry?

Loot boxes are products that can be bought on video games, purchasing a these virtual products will reward you a random collection of virtual items (loot) that can usually be used in the video game. You may be thinking what makes that so attractive? Well these loot boxes advertise the possibility of containing valuable items, some of which are either very hard to obtain in the normal game or even some items that are only available through loot boxes.

The EA sports football game Fifa is a very popular franchise that uses loot boxes. They offer players the chance to open random packs with the chance to win the highest rated players, players that either cost a lot of in game money on the in game marketplace. It should be noted that although these packs can be purchased with in-game money, the most common method is purchasing these with real money.

So, in short people are paying real money for a shot at random in game rewards, hoping it’s of high value. Sound a lot like the lottery, right? Which is of course classified as gambling. In game loot boxes come with no age restriction allowing all players to take a risk with real money.

Loot boxes have been in video games for a few years now and have since become a vital part of developers revenue with an estimated £23 billion in revenue coming from game add ons.

Will they ever become classified as Gambling?

Labour MP Carolyn Harris is the is part of a group of MPs from different parties who investigate gambling related issues. Her view on the issue at present is one shared by many, that is that they are encouraging young people playing video games to take a chance, a trait that can be carried  into gambling at a later age.

It’s very easy to look at the negative aspect it can potentially have on certain people, but it is hard to see past the consequences any change would have to game developers. Adding rules to these products such as banning the product as a whole or limiting to 18+ will have a massive impact on their revenue.

You may wonder why the UKGC haven’t looked covered this issue yet. Well for the time being they aren’t providing anything with a monetary value, so it doesn’t come under them.

It is unsure when or even if action will be taken on the top, but it certainly won’t be out the headlines anytime soon and controversy continues to increase.

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