Loot boxes have again received some extra scrutiny, this time from the UK Gambling Commission, the UK governmental body that regulates gambling.
In November of 2018, the UK Gambling Commission reported that 30 percent of the 2,865 children surveyed had opened a loot box, but held back from drawing a line between loot boxes and gambling.
UK Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur, speaking to the BBC, has reiterated that position stating that loot boxes and Fifa packs do not constitute gambling, at least not in the UK. Neil McArthur does go on to express ‘significant concerns’ about children playing games that offer loot boxes, loot boxes and Fifa packs do not qualify as gambling under current UK legislation. As there is no official way to monetize loot box rewards, they do not count as gambling. Under UK law, to be considered gambling, prizes have to be either money or have a monetary value.
“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,” McArthur said.
Though secondary markets do exist which do monetise loot boxes or Fifa cards, as they are unofficial they don’t count towards the gambling definition. Gambling Commission program director Brad Enright admitted that companies such as games publisher EA faced “a constant battle” against unauthorised secondary markets.
This all comes hot on the heels of companies such as Blizzard and Psyonix removing paid loot boxes from their games in some territories after legislation brought in via countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.
For now, it seems that unless legislation changes, the UK will not be joining those countries in determining loot boxes as gambling. This news has not gone down well in all quarters, with internet commentators such as Jim Sterling expressing their dismay over the ruling.
For now, we’ll continue to have the latest news on this ever-evolving tussle between game publishers and gambling laws right here on Green Man Gaming’s Newsroom.