UK Government Urged To Introduce Legislation On Loot Boxes

Posted on July 25, 2022

One of the biggest responsible gambling bodies in the United Kingdom has urged the new UK government to consider introducing legislation regarding the use of loot boxes within popular video game titles.

GambleAware is lobbying for the next official UK Prime Minister, who will step into the shoes of former PM Boris Johnson at some point in September, to make regulating the use of loot boxes within games a priority in order to offer greater protection for those at risk of gambling harm and especially young and under-age children.

If the government does move to introduce some kind of legislation, the UK would join the likes of the Netherlands and Spain regulating loot boxes.

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“Psychologically Akin To Gambling”

In a tweet from their social media account on Twitter, GambleAware commented:

“Research shows that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling & we are concerned about the risks to children. It is encouraging to see government recognise the risks of loot boxes, however we hope to see legislative action considered.”

The Tweet also contained a picture of a somewhat alarming stat for anyone interested in safe betting which claimed that 40% of children that play video games, also use loot boxes as part of their gaming experience in one form or another.

The response came after the UK Government published its findings from an investigation by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) last week that urged game developers to take greater action over the inclusion and use of loot boxes within games.

That study found that players that have purchased loot boxes are more likely to experience issues linked to gambling, as well as mental health problems, financial problems and other gaming related difficulties, compared to those that do not purchase the items.

Worryingly, the risk was higher for children and younger people.

Loot boxes are not like standard betting. This is not like standard or even virtual esports betting. Loot boxes are a subtle way to encourage spending money, to enhance your chances in a game, but with only a very slim chance of doing so.

Mobile Gaming Asia

However, unlike some other countries, the report stopped short of recommending a ban on loot boxes and instead, the government urged companies to increase additional measures to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of loot boxes.

This included:

  • Introducing parental permission being required before an Under 18 player can purchase any item within a game.
  • Introduction of spending controls.
  • Companies should also be more up front about a player’s chances of receiving certain items within loot boxes.
  • Additional protection for the minority of players who spend a much larger amount on loot boxes than others and who may be at increased risk.

The report only suggested that new legislation would be considered if developers don’t bring in new features, improvements and security enhancements to keep players safe.

“More Needs To Be Done”

Addressing the findings, GambleAware pointed out that:

“Gambling is a part of children and young people’s daily lives, and children are thought to be more vulnerable to gambling harm, both as a result of someone else’s gambling and their own participation.”

“There are around 55,000 children experiencing gambling harms aged between 11 and 16 in the UK, according to the National Audit Office, with a further 85,000 estimated to be at risk and we believe more needs to be done to prevent harm among children and younger people.”

“We look forward to the publication of the Video Games Research Framework later this year, which we hope will guide and inform legislation to protect children and young people from gambling related harms through video games.”

Last week, the UK Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel deSouza stated that loot boxes should be included as gambling within the definition of the UK Gambling Act, a move which would see loot boxes subject to gambling regulations.

At present, the UK Government has stopped short of that, instead impressing on game development houses to tackle the problem in-house.

However, given the vast sums of money loot boxes generate in games, how keen are companies going to be to make adjustments that could cost them millions in lost revenue?

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Ian John

A lifelong poker fan, Ian is also well-versed in the world of sports betting, casino gaming, and has written extensively on the online gambling industry. Based in the UK, Ian brings fresh insight into all facets of gaming.

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