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2017

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A bit of a lucky dip...

Games censors and the UK parliament considers whether loot boxes in video games need to be regulated as gambling


Link Here17th October 2017
Loot boxes are a revenue creating facility where gamers are assisted in their quests by the real money purchase of loot boxes that contain a random collections of goodies that help game progress. loot boxes are found in many commercially successful games, such as Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield 1, Paragon, Gears of War 4, and FIFA 17.

The pros and cons of this method of revenue raising has been passionately debated in games forums and teh debate seems to have widened out to more regulatory spheres.

Last week the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who rate games for North America declared that loot boxes, despite their inherent randomness, do not constitute a form of gambling. The reason, simply put, is that while you don't know what you're going to get out of them, you know you're going to get something -- unlike a lottery ticket, say, where the great likelihood is that your money is just going up in smoke.

The same opinion is reflected by PEGI who rate games for Europe. PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told Wccftech:

In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB. The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling, That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it's done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.

And for solidarity the UK games trade group Ukie agreed. Dr. Jo Twist of Ukie said

Loot boxes are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant UK regulations. The games sector has a history of open and constructive dialogue with regulators, ensuring that games fully comply with UK law and has already discussed similar issues as part of last year's Gambling Commission paper on virtual currencies, esports and social gaming.

Not everyone agrees though, a British parliamentarian gave a little push to the UK government by submitting the questions:

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man's enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in the UK.

It seems that the Isle of Mann already sees loot boxes as being liable to gambling controls.

Tracey Crouch, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded in a statement, pointing out that definitions and protections already exist regarding loot boxes and other in-game currencies, referencing a paper published by the UK Gambling Commission earlier this year. She said:

Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.

So for the moment it seems that for the moment the status quo will be maintained, but in this age of cotton wool and snowflakes, I wouldn't bet on it.


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