New regulations that govern the age limits for gamers using loot boxes have been approved in Australia.
The decision comes as part of a broader classification of standards for video games, especially those that contain some element of gambling or loot boxes.
The Australian government has acted after research conducted prior to the pandemic revealed that the Australian population has the greatest per-capita losses when gambling in the world. Furthermore, it is not even a close-run thing with Australian gambler losses rated at 40% higher than the country in second place.
Gambling & Loot Box Games to Carry Warning
The changes to the standards for video games were agreed upon at a recent Standing Council of Attorneys-General meeting, which includes Attorneys-General from the government, as well as from all the different states and territories of Australia.
To make the change, there has to be unanimous agreement between all present to ensure that the law change can be made.
The changes to the law will come into effect in September 2024 and are as follows:
- Any game that features in-game purchases that have an element of chance contained in them, such as loot boxes, will be rated M. That means that it is advised that these games are not recommended for people aged under 15. However, this is not a legally binding requirement.
- Any game that simulates any form of gambling, including social casino games, will be rated R18+. This category is legally enforceable and means that these games will no longer be sold to people under the age of 18.
The ban will only apply to games released from September 2024 onwards and will not be retrospectively applied to existing titles.
Following UK Study Evidence
The decision comes after a UK Study in 2022 recommended that loot boxes be allowed for over-18 players only. However, the British Government decided not to implement a blanket ban and have instead opted to let gaming companies regulate themselves.
The study by EPIC Risk Management said there existed a clear link between video games and underage gambling and loot boxes were the main source of this. They recommended to the government that loot box games be certified as 18+ only.
While the UK Government was disinclined to act, Australia has moved forward with this new legislation which will come into force next year.
Will There be a Knock-On Effect on Esports Betting?
Given that many esports titles that people bet on have some loot box element (such as EA FC – formerly FIFA – NBA2k, Madden, Overwatch, etc.) many have questioned what the impact could be on the Australian esports and esports betting industries.
The good news is that esports betting in Australia is already heavily regulated and is an 18+ activity anyway, as all forms of betting are. So the impact here should be negligible.
However, what impact these new regulations have on people participating in these titles remains to be seen.
Australia has made their decision about loot boxes in gaming and representations of gambling in gaming and on social media. It is not a decision that has been welcomed by all, but it is one the government hopes can combat its population’s seeming preoccupation with gambling.