The UK has been recently looking closely at loot boxes to see if whether they can be classified as gambling.
The UK isn’t the only country to turn its attention to video games and loot boxes. The stance taken by gaming regulators in different countries has caused many gaming developers to be more defensive in their stance.
This is because loot boxes are a large part of their gaming revenue.
While most countries have labelled loot boxes as gambling, the UK seems to have taken the opposition stance and has become an unlikely defender of loot boxes.
Margot James who is the Minister of the State for Digital and the Creative Industries had to recently present her views about loot boxes in parliament. James said that based on the investigation and information she has received there is not enough proof that loot boxes can be classified as gambling.
In a statement, James said
The fact that other European countries have taken action I think is much more to do with them taking their offline gambling laws online, and our gambling laws are different. I would also contest the assumption that loot boxes are gambling. I don’t think the evidence I’ve read from your committee’s hearings would support that assumption either. Loot boxes are a means of people purchasing items, skins, to enhance their gaming experience, not through an expectation of an additional financial reward
However, James said that her department was not blind to the issues associated with loot boxes. If any proof emerged that showed that loot boxes were gambling, then she and her department would take appropriate action.
Do Loot Boxes Contribute Towards Problem Gambling?
This concern about loot boxes coincides with the fact that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) estimates that 450,000 children and teens are gambling regularly. Among these 55,000 of them are considered to have a gambling problem. The problem has gotten so bad that the National Health Service has announced a program to treat 13 to 25-year olds for gambling addiction.
One of the major debates is whether video games are contributing to this gambling epidemic by using methods that get children addicted to these games. Several game developers such as Epic Games and Electronic Arts who use loot boxes in their games have shared their views about loot boxes but have skipped the key question as to whether loot boxes are potentially addictive. Given the fact that UK is taking a more lenient stance towards loot boxes, don’t be surprised if other countries adopt a similar approach going forward!