Loot boxes – the controversial quasi-gambling element in games such as FIFA and Overwatch where players can pay for the chance to win rare items – have taken another hit. They may already be on life support after the major publishers agreed to publish odds by the end of next year, and now MPs want to limit their reach even further.
A report published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) recommends that loot crates should be regulated under the Gambling Act. And treating them as gambling would also involve an outright ban on sale to children.
“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm,” wrote chairman Damian Collins MP in the report. “Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.”
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The report states that loot boxes “were found to be integral to major games companies’ revenues,” and added that these profits were facilitated via “problem gamblers.” Evidence to the committee included one testimony about a gamer spending over £1000 per year on FIFA Ultimate Team packs, while another person stated that their adult son had racked up over £50,000 in debt on RuneScape.
“It is unacceptable that some companies with millions of users and children among them should be so ill-equipped to talk to us about the potential harm of their products,” Mr Collins added.
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The recommendation of the report is that loot boxes with an element of chance shouldn’t be sold to children, and rather earned through in-game credits. If the government accepts the recommendation, a change in the law would be required to extend the current definition of gambling beyond cash prizes.
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