In the current hot topic of microtransactions and loot boxes spurred on by EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, the UK’s Gambling Commission has released an official statement on their stance regarding such systems found in today’s video games.
While lawmakers in Belgium and the United States seek to regulate or outright ban the practice, in part of its similarities to gambling and harmful nature to young children, the local Gambling Commission sees things a little differently. Denoting that under UK law, the practice is not considered gambling since in-game items obtained cannot be “cashed out”.
“A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired ‘via a game of chance’ can be considered money or money’s worth. In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in.”
However, they do acknowledge its negative effects on adolescence as well as the concerns of parents simply wanting to protect their children. And have responded against third-party bodies conducting illegal gambling systems.
“we have and will take robust action. Earlier this year we successfully brought the first criminal prosecution in this area in relation to Futgalaxy – a website for providing skins gambling to children (skins gambling is explained within the position paper).”
“many parents are not interested in whether an activity meets a legal definition of ‘gambling’. Their main concern is whether there is a product out there that could present a risk to their children. We are concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred. Where it does meet the definition of gambling it is our job to ensure that children are protected and we have lots of rules in place, like age verification requirements, to do that.”
It isn’t surprising that various countries will have different views on the matter, and it is apparent that this is far from over for the gaming industry.
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