Loot Box and Gambling Concerns Receive Response From U.K. Government

Loot

The U.K. government has issued a response to questions asking whether or not loot boxes should be considered gambling, and if so, what measures would be taken to protect buyers against the risky purchases.

A response from Tracey Crouch, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Digital, Media, Culture, and Sport, is the result of questions from Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge. Zeichner met with a concerned citizen where they discussed the nature of loot boxes in video games and the perceived gambling qualities associated with the purchases. The first question from Zeichner, seen below, was a more general inquiry about loot boxes and online gambling while the second focused on a particular jurisdiction that has stricter protections against gambling.

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games," the inquiry read.

Both questions received the same response from Croutch, a response that referenced previous actions taken against virtual currencies and loot boxes and assured that they recognize the risks associated with gambling and video games.

“The Gambling Commission released a position paper in March 2017 detailing existing protections in place for in-game gambling, virtual currencies and loot boxes. The paper can be found on the Commission’s website at the following link: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/Virtual-currencies-eSports-and-social-casino-gaming.pdf.

“Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.

“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the core objectives of the regulation of gambling in Great Britain and a priority for the government. The Gambling Commission have a range of regulatory powers to take action where illegal gambling is taking place. Earlier this year the Gambling Commission successfully prosecuted the operators of a website providing illegal gambling facilities for in-game items which was accessible to children - the first regulator in the world to bring such an action.

“The government recognise the risks that come from increasing convergence between gambling and computer games. The Gambling Commission is keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market.”

The answer references the prosecution of third-party gambling but doesn’t dig into the issue of in-game purchases that could be considered gambling. Based on the response, it doesn’t seem as though any actions will be taken at the moment about loot boxes, at least not until more organizations such as the ESRB consider loot boxes gambling. Petitions also continue to gain more signatures, so while progress on the issue may move slowly, it’s at least moving.