Speaking of the heated debate on loot boxes in video games, one of the points of contention is whether they can be considered gambling.
At least from the United Kingdom, the answer is no, from a legal standpoint. The local Gambling Commission posted a ruling yesterday mentioned that what is considered gambling is set by Parliament, and not by the commission itself.
According to the line set by UK gambling law, loot boxes in video games are not considered gambling, as they are combined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out.
A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired ‘via a game of chance’ can be considered money or money’s worth. In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in.
That being said, the commission has been acting against third-party websites that offer real money gambling services centered on in-game content.
That being said, the commission also recognizes that many parents are not concerned about whether loot boxes are legally gambling or not, but simply if they can be harmful to their children.
To that effect, the commission suggests developers and publishers to include “proper protections,” basically suggesting the implementation of dedicated parental controls or age verification. This is something that the commission mentions “parents will undoubtedly expect.”
On the other hand, politicians from Belgium and the State of Hawaii have started moving in the opposite direction.
In the meanwhile, Electronic Arts has temporarily removed microtransactions for loot boxes from Star Wars Battlefront II, that has been the catalyst for the whole situation to explode. At the moment we do not know in which form microtransactions will return to the game.