The House of Lords Gambling Committee has said that videogame loot boxes should be regulated under gambling laws going forward.
This decision is the result of lengthy debate ever since loot boxes began to emerge as commonplace items in the majority of blockbuster releases, with many critics urging the government to take action with potential regulation.
Now, the House of Lords has said they should be classified as “games of chance” which would bring them squarely under the Gambling Act of 2005. “If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling,” its report reads.
“The government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation,” it continues, with the government seemingly in a rush to implement such regulations into the gaming landscape. When exactly it will be introduced remains unclear, however.
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“The liberalisation of gambling by the Gambling Act 2005, the universal adoption of smartphones, and the exploitation of soft-touch regulation by gambling operators has created a perfect storm of addictive 24/7 gambling,” the committee wrote. “The committee expects the government and the regulator to make changes now. Many of the report’s recommendations do not need legislation, and all of them are urgent if consumers are to be protected and lives saved.”
UK trade body Ukie has also released a statement regarding the announcement, delving into further depth surrounding the nature of loot boxes and how it has been addressing the issue of manipulative gambling practices in the medium.
“The majority of people in the UK play video games in one form or another, so we take these concerns seriously,” said UKIE CEO Dr Jo Twist. “We’ve worked hard to increase the use of family controls on consoles which can turn off or limit spending and we will be working closely with the DCMS during its review of the Gambling Act later this year.”
Loot boxes and similar mechanics, such as FIFA’s Ultimate Team, have been in dire need of regulation for years. It’s a positive step forward to ensure practices such as these are clearly displayed, and vulnerable players aren’t pulled into toxic habits they might find hard to break.