Dutch government loot box study concludes four games contravene law

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Four out of ten games containing loot boxes examined by the Dutch Gaming Authority have been found to contravene the Netherlands’ Betting and Gaming Act, and Dutch authorities have called on their developers and publishers to adjust their models by mid-June.

The Dutch Gaming Authority report (a rare example in which Google Translate works beautifully) says: “Of the ten examined loot boxes, four are in violation of the law. This is because coincidence determines the contents of these loot boxes. Moreover, the prizes can be traded outside the game: the prizes have economic value. It is forbidden to offer these types of games of chance without a licence to Dutch players.”

The report adds: “From 20 June 2018 the Gaming Authority will take enforcement action against gambling providers with loot boxes that do not comply with this standard. The investigation by the Gaming Authority also showed that there may be a connection between loot boxes and the development of addiction. The Gaming Authority therefore calls on providers to remove the addiction-sensitive elements (‘near-profit’ effects, visual effects, the possibility to keep opening loot boxes in quick succession and the like) from the games and to take measures to exclude vulnerable groups.”

Although the report did not mention the specific games under investigation, Dutch news agency NOS has fingered them as Dota 2, FIFA 18, PUBG and Rocket League.

The precise implications of the report’s findings are as yet unclear: it has been suggested that it may be possible for the publishers of the offending games to pay the Dutch Gaming Authority a gambling licence fee, and for those games to be reclassified as online casinos. The chance of four such incredibly popular and money-making games being reconfigured without loot box systems for the Dutch market are remote, to say the least, so a ban on their sale in the Netherlands would be a distinct possibility. 

Whatever transpires, it’s clear that loot boxes as they stand are coming under increasing scrutiny from governments around the world, and their days in their current form could well be numbered as a consequence.