Fifteen EU-based regulators plus Washington State have made a joint declaration while Australian based study likens loot boxes to gambling, not baseball cards
Fifteen EU gambling regulators from the UK, Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Latvia, the
Czech Republic, Spain, the Isle of Man, Malta, Portugal, Jersey, Norway, and the Netherlands plus US representation from the Washington State Gambling Regulator published the letter, noting their concerns with the business model.
In addition to
the loot box problem, the letter addresses how it will take on websites that let players either gamble or sell in-game items like skins or weapons with real-world money.
One of the signatories, Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission
We have joined forces to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children. We encourage video games companies to work with
their gambling regulators and take action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected.
The letter speaks of the groups concerns but does not detail the direction sthat the group
will take in reacting to the concerns.
According to VentureBeat, a study conducted by the Australian Parliament's Environment and Communications References Committee showed that there were links between loot box spending and problematic gambling.
The population sample size was 7500 people.
The more severe a gamers' problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes. These results strongly support claims that loot boxes are psychologically akin to
gambling, said the report, conducted by Dr. David Zendle and Dr. Paul Cairns.
In a statement, the pair added loot boxes could potentially act as an introduction to gambling or take advantage of gambling disorders. They note that the industry tends
to brush off loot boxes as similar to harmless products like baseball cards, football/soccer stickers, and products along those lines.
In related news games maker EA could face legal issues for ignoring a ruling by the Belgian government to remove
the Ultimate Team portion from FIFA 18.
The Polish government is demanding that ISPs snitch on their customers who attempt to access websites it deems illegal.
The government wants to make the restrictions stricter for unauthorised online gambling sites and will require local ISPs to
inform it about citizens' attempts to access them. According to the Panoptykon Foundation, a digital rights watchdog, the government will compile a central registry of unauthorized websites to monitor.
According to the digital rights body, the
government seeks to introduce a chief snooper that would compel data from ISPs disclosing which citizens tried to access unauthorised websites. In addition, the ISPs would have to keep the smooping requests secret from the customer.
organisations are unsurprisingly worried that the censorship's expansion could turn out to be the first of many steps in an online limitation escalation.
France's online gaming authority (ARJEL, Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne) has decided that loot boxes in premium-priced games are not gambling. It determined that loot boxes are not legally considered gambling, and therefore are not
However, ARJEL will continue to monitor the matter and is also calling for more unilateral support from the European Union in order to achieve a sound consensus on whether or not to consider loot boxes gambling.
ARJEL, the fact that you can't readily cash out your rewards from loot boxes for real-world currency means that in the minds of regulators it's not quite gambling. For them, the only way it would be gambling is if players could actually retrieve the
money that they invested into the product.
However, ARJEL also believes that loot boxes do contain questionable psychological hooks that work very similar to slot machines and roulette wheels in terms of luring gamers into a feeling of needing to
spend more money in order to acquire the item they seek.
The Dutch gambling authority will enforce a new ban on loot boxes. They identified four games that offer loot boxes that are considered gambling. According to the public broadcast company these games are FIFA 18, DOTA 2 , PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds
and Rocket League .
These games had until the 20th of June to make changes to the gambling aspect of their loot boxes. Starting from Thursday the gambling authority will enforce the rules. Fines can be 830.000 euro (960.000 dollar) or 10%
of the company's worldwide revenue. If they don't make changes, the public prosecutor will look into prosecution.
Swiss voters will decide on Sunday whether to back a new gambling law designed to restrict online gambling to a state monopoly or reject what opponents say amounts to internet censorship.
Recent polls indicate a clear majority plan support the new
law, which has already been passed by both houses of parliament, and now is being put to a referendum.
The Swiss government says the Gambling Act updates legislation for the digital age. If approved by voters, the law would be among the strictest
in Europe and would only allow casinos and gaming companies certified in Switzerland to operate, including on the internet. This would enable Swiss companies for the first time to offer online gambling, but would basically block foreign-based companies
from the market.
Bern also wants all of the companies' proceeds to be taxed in Switzerland, with revenues helping fund anti-addiction measures, as well as social security and sports and culture programmes.
The new law represents a windfall
for Switzerland's casinos, which had put huge amounts of money into campaigning.
Opponents have slammed Bern for employing methods worthy of an authoritarian state, with a measure that they claim is censorship of the internet.
Swiss voters have
overwhelmingly approved blocking foreign-based betting sites in a referendum on a new gambling law designed to create a local monopoly.
72.9% of voters came out in favor of the new gambling law.
The law, which is set to take effect next
year, will be among the strictest in Europe, allowing only casinos and gaming companies certified in Switzerland to operate in the country, including on the internet.
It will enable Swiss companies for the first time to offer online gambling, but
will basically block foreign-based companies from the market.
If all things were equal, it would seem eminently sensible to ban 100 quid spins on a gambling machine; ban junk food shops for making people fat; ban pubs for being unhealthy... But if you do all of these you will end up with some pretty desolate high
streets, and an awful lot of people staying in and pumping all their money to the foreign media and retail giants such as Amazon, Netflix and 20th Century Fox Murdoch Sky Sports.
Government to cut Fixed Odds Betting Terminals
maximum stake from £100 to £2
The maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are to be reduced from £100 to £2 to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm, Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch
The move comes off the back of a consultation with the public and the industry to ensure that we have the right balance between a sector that can grow and contribute to the economy and one that is socially
responsible and doing all it should to protect consumers and communities.
The government wants to reduce the potential for large losses on FOBT (B2) machines and the risk of harm to both the player and wider communities. Following
analysis of consultation responses and advice from the Gambling Commission, the government believes that a cut to £2 will best achieve this.
The Gambling Commission has also been tasked to take forward discussions with the
industry to improve player protection measures on B1 and B3 category machines, looking at spend and time limits.
DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock said:
When faced with the choice of halfway
measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand. These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society
Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch said:
Problem gambling can devastate individuals' lives, families and communities. It is right that we take decisive
action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society. By reducing FOBT stakes to £2 we can help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it.
While we want a healthy
gambling industry that contributes to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect players. We are increasing protections around online gambling, doing more on research, education and treatment of problem gambling and ensuring tighter
rules around gambling advertising. We will work with the industry on the impact of these changes and are confident that this innovative sector will step up and help achieve this balance.
In addition to the reduction
to FOBT stakes the government has today confirmed:
The Gambling Commission will toughen up protections around online gambling including stronger age verification rules and proposals to require operators to set limits on consumers' spending until affordability checks have been
A major multi-million pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling, supported by industry and GambleAware, will be launched later this year.
The Industry Group for
Responsible Gambling (IGRG) has amended its code to ensure that a responsible gambling message will appear for the duration of all TV adverts.
Public Health England will carry out a review of the evidence relating to the
public health harms of gambling.
As part of the next licence competition the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed, to take into accounts developments in the market and the risk of harm to young
In order to cover any negative impact on the public finances, and to protect funding for vital public services, this change will be linked to an increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online gaming operators, at the relevant Budget.
Changes to the stake will be through secondary legislation. The move will need parliamentary approval and we will also engage with the gambling industry to ensure it is given sufficient time to implement and complete the
B1 machines are in casinos with a maximum stake of £5 with a maximum pay-out of £10,000 (or progressive jackpot of £20,000)
machines, are those being talked about in bookies
B3 machines are located in casino, betting, arcade and bingo venues with a maximum stake of £2 and a maximum pay-out of £500.
A TV ad for a gambling operator, Kwiff Ltd, seen on 2 December 2017 featured a voice-over that stated, Bet on the Ashes with Kwiff and every time you do your odds might get Kwiffed. What does getting Kwiffed feel like? It feels like the end of a
school day. The teacher says no homework tonight. But there was one thing I need you all to do. I need you to pop all these bubbles for me. Do you think you could do that? And that pretty much is what getting Kwiffed on the Ashes feels like.
The ad featured scenes showing grown men dressed in a school uniform and in one particular shot showed a female teacher open a wooden chest which was followed by the men popping some bubble wrap.
complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it was likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s.
2. One complainant challenged whether the ad featured juvenile behaviour, which was prohibited in gambling ads
under the BCAP Code.
1. Not upheld
The BCAP Code stated that ads for gambling must not be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or
being associated with youth culture. Gambling ads could not therefore appeal more strongly to under-18s than they did to over-18s, regardless of when they were broadcast.
The ASA noted that the ad was set in a school classroom and
featured men dressed in school uniform. However, the classroom was stylised in an old-fashioned manner and included blackboards and single wooden desks for pupils. We considered that such an environment did not resemble modern day school classrooms and,
consequently, did not reflect youth culture in that respect. Furthermore, the pupil characters in the ad were all grown men and did not feature any children.
Because of that, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to be of
particular appeal to under-18s.
The voice-over in the ad stated What does getting Kwiffed feel like? It feels like the end of a school day. The teacher says no homework tonight. But there was one
thing I need you all to do. I need you to pop all these bubbles for me. Do you think you could do that? The ad then showed the men's reactions, who were excited in a childlike manner by the idea of popping bubble wrap. The ad then featured scenes of the
men popping bubble wrap with great enjoyment.
We considered popping bubble wrap was mostly enjoyed by young children and therefore concluded that the scenes showing the men popping bubble wrap depicted juvenile behaviour, which
was prohibited in gambling ads under the BCAP Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Kwiff that their future advertising must not feature juvenile behaviour.
The Dutch Gaming Authority (kansspelautoriteit) has ruled on the matter of loot boxes i computer games and has determined that out of ten popular games with loot boxes the commission investigated, four don't comply with the country's Better Gaming
According to the Dutch Gaming Authority, the four games in violation of the Better Gaming Act because they feature elements in them that can also be found in the gambling world. Because loot box items could be traded for euro at fluctuating
prices, these items have economic value. And since players can earn money for rare items, the games violate the rules of chance.
Of the remaining six games the Dutch Gaming Authority investigated, they found that the loot boxes contained items
that could not be traded. Thus they are in compliance with the Better Gaming Act. However, the group still criticized how loot boxes were implemented as slot machines or roulettes.
Companies that do not comply with the Better Gaming Act can be
fined or even prohibited from being sold in the Netherlands.
The games will only be officially identified if they don't take the required remedial action. However it has been reported that likely games requiring cuts are Playerunknown's
Battlegrounds (PUBG), Dota 2 , and Rocket League which include items that can be traded through third-party services
The Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor, has blocked 1,882 sites with gambling content in just a week.
The latest statistics were published by Betting Business Russia (BBR), an independent online magazine focused on the gaming and betting
industry. The magazine estimates that the censor blocked 806 platforms that represent online casinos, online lotteries or Internet poker rooms.
A large number of the blocked sites during the past week include mirror sites trying to work
around previous block. The most nirrored site, with 298 blocked domains, is Fonbet, the country's largest sportsbook operator.
Despite not offering gambling content, another 172 websites were blocked in the period April 8 to April 14. The magazine
explains that these sites publish information on bookmakers, casinos, gambling machines, and sweepstakes.
Earlier in March 2018, the censor blocked 7398 sites with gambling content.
Russia has strict anti-gambling laws that prohibit almost
any form of betting or real-money games.
Last September the adverts at ASA rightfully laid into adverts for several gambling firms that suggested that gambling could be a way for people's problems.
The adverts were not placed by the companies themselves, but by independent affiliates who are
paid by commissions on sales, and are not under editorial control of the gambling company.
ASA made the case that the gambling companies were ultimately responsible for the advertising placed by affiliates. There is a valid rationale behind this
line of thinking, because the gambling company is able to terminate their agreement with affiliates who don't play ball. However this isn't really a practical way of controlling affiliates because reputational damage can be done before the company or
censors become aware of bad advertising.
So of course the only available practical solution is to terminate the entire affiliate advertising model. And that is what has resulted from the ASA decision. The online casino 888 has sent out emails to
its affiliates stating they must no longer target UK traffic and 888 would no longer pay them commission for newly generated players. The affiliates were told:
As you may be aware the regulatory landscape for affiliates is constantly
changing and evolving, especially in the UK. In order to help ensure that we work with our affiliate partners in a compliant manner, we are seeking to exert greater control on the traffic which is generated from the UK.
As a result, from January
29th 2018, you must not target UK IP addresses and/or any persons located in the UK. Therefore, we shall no longer pay you any commission with regard to money players in the UK which you generate.
888 told iGamingBusiness:
888 takes the issue of responsible gaming very seriously and has taken a number steps to ensure its marketing complies with the Gambling Commission's LCCP and ASA's advertising codes.
Last September, Swiss legislators approved changes to its gambling laws will introduce website blocking for foreign competitors to Switzerland's own gambling industry.
This domain-blocking plan, set to take effect in 2019, met with pushback from Swiss
ISPs and civil libertarians, who decided Swiss voters should have a say in this flirtation with authoritarian censorship. Swiss law allows voters a referendum on contentious legislation provided 50k citizens sign the necessary petition within 100 days of
the law's passage.
On Tuesday, Swiss media outlet Blick reported that a coalition of three political parties and the Internet Society Switzerland Chapter had so far collected around 65k signatures, of which 25k have been certified by the
state. The group has until January 18 to certify the additional 25k signatures needed for the referendum to be approved.
Andri Silberschmidt, president of the youth organization of Switzerland's Free Democratic Party, told Blick that his group was
intent on combatting digital isolation, mindful that once a government starts banning what its citizens can do online, even tighter restrictions are usually not far behind. Freedom for the economy and the internet, has great support in Switzerland.
The local casino industry, which has long complained that its falling revenue was due to competition from international gambling sites. But the most recent data from the Swiss Federation of Casinos showed the nation's 21 licensed brick-and-mortar
casinos posted a modest year-on-year revenue gain in 2016. Lottery and sports betting revenue enjoyed even larger gains in 2016, rising 8.3% year-on-year. So it appears that there are bluffs to call.