If you have been reading our news articles lately, or pretty much any news source that covers online gambling, you have surely noticed that few topics have dominated the discourse. At least in the UK, we’ve been discussing issues regarding the status of certain types of gambling and the possibility to introduce stricter regulations.
Problem gambling has been one of the most discussed topics lately, it was featured in the news heavily lately and it was even presented on the popular BBC Panorama. Gambling operators have faced a lot of pressure, from the general public and especially from regulatory bodies and lawmakers who themselves are responding to public pressure. Two weeks ago, leading operators, i.e. their representatives were called at Westminster to discuss issues, including voluntary donations and other ways to combat problem gambling and to promote responsible gambling.
This time we have a different topic that has just surfaced or resurfaced as the hottest gambling-related topic in the UK press – loot boxes.
Loot boxes were discussed in Commons
Video loot boxes are packages that are sold in-game on many games, including games that are aimed at children. Even though loot boxes aren’t gambling, in the strict sense of the word, it has been shown that in-game features such as these exploit psychological traits and characteristics that are typically associated with gambling-related behaviours.
Psychologists and other academics are still reluctant to give a definite judgment on loot boxes and their effect on children, seen there’s no conclusive data, but many have voiced their concerns over their effects.
The Commons recently discussed loot boxes and the opinion of the House is that loot boxes should be classified as gambling and children should be protected. The Labour Party is known for having a rather negative attitude towards gambling lately, therefore it is not surprising that Labour Deputy and shadow Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport minister Tom Watson argued in favour of classifying loot boxes as gambling.
Watson said that the Gambling Act of 2005 should be replaced entirely, so it is evident that the party position has changed dramatically in the last decade, seen that the law was passed by Blair’s Labour government.
Multiple arguments and points have been mentioned and explained at the committee meeting, including the issue of purchasing games that are deemed unsuitable for children. It has been argued that same control measures should be applied to online sales as well. If a game can’t be purchased on a physical copy, it should not be possible to purchase it online either.
Loot boxes are gambling, DCMS Committee confirms
The Commission did reach a conclusion and the conclusion was that loot boxes come at a high cost for vulnerable groups and expose children to potential harm. The chair of the Committee, Damian Collins said that the said that buying a loot box is like playing a game of chance and that gambling laws should reflect that. He added that Parliament is challenging the Government on the issue and is expecting an answer on why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.
The Commission conducted a survey last year and it showed that almost a third of all surveyed children aged 11-16 have purchased loot boxes with one player confessed to spending £1K annually on FIFA in an attempt to get better players.