The House of Lords Gambling Committee has announced they believe video game loot boxes should immediately be regulated under gambling laws, stating that the boxes should be classified as a “game of chance” – which would, in turn, mean they would be legally covered under the Gambling Act of 2005.
Of course, controversy surrounding in-game loot boxes is nothing new; for the past few years a number of high-profile politicians, gambling experts and even regulators themselves have voiced concerns over the potential for children and teenagers to lose significant sums of money in buying the boxes; although until now, little appears to have been done legally, especially in the UK.
A Loot Box Clampdown Looks Likely
As the UK’s online gambling rules and regulations become significantly more strict, it seems as though the regulation of loot boxes is likely – and it may come sooner than many people think.
In the report put out by the House of Lords Gambling Committee, they state:
“If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling. The government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation,”
The Chairman of the Committee – Lord Grade – appeared on BBC Breakfast a few days ago and said:
“Lots of other countries have already started to regulate loot boxes because “they can see the dangers” which is teaching “kids to gamble”.
He also added that the current Gambling Act was “way behind what was actually happening in the market” although he did add that the “overwhelming majority” of the report’s recommendations “could be enacted today” as they require any significant legislation to be put in place.
A Vast Report Covering A Wide Spectrum Of Issues
The report released by the Committee detailed a number of “issues” and covered the entire offline and online gambling as a whole. However, the report focused largely on new forms of gambling – particularly those that are directly or indirectly targeted towards children – and loot boxes play a big part of this.
The report also comes just after the Committee started discussions about the potential banning of gambling sponsorships. While, for now, a separate issue, it shows that the Committee are looking to follow the likes of the UK’s Gambling Commission in potentially enforcing draconian new measures on the iGaming and betting industry as a whole.
Coming back to what they said about Loot Boxes, the report also went on to state:
“There is academic research which proves that there is a connection, though not necessarily a causal link, between loot box spending and problem gambling.”
Leading industry expert Dr. David Zendle contributed to the report, helping explain to the committee how Loot Boxes work – and how the way in which they can be purchased can encourage problematic spending habits, not dissimilar to those seen in gambling addicts.
While some countries – Belgium, for example – have taken action (going as far as to ban Loot Boxes altogether) the rest of the world seems to be lagging behind – although now that the UK’s regulators are getting involved it’s likely that’s going to change very soon.