Update, July 2, 2.33pm:
Ukie, the trade body for the video game industry in the UK, has supplied its own statement in response to the Gambling Committee’s report.
“The majority of people in the UK play video games in one form or another, so we take these concerns seriously. 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,” said Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie. In addition, the Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. Campaign aimed to teach families how to effectively manage spending in games, and the PEGI age rating system does use a ‘paid random item’ descriptor to communicate whether there are loot boxes in the game.
Original story, July 2, 2.14pm:
Loot boxes must be counted under gambling laws because they are “games of chance,” announced the House of Lords Gambling Committee in the UK (via BBC).
“If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling,” read the report from the Committee. “The government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation.” Lord Grade, chairman of the committee, referenced laws in countries like Singapore, the Netherlands, and Belgium which have set out regulations for loot boxes because “they can see the dangers” of encouraging children to “gamble.”
If these in-game additions fall under the classification of “games of chance,” then loot boxes would be subject to the laws of the Gambling Act 2005. However, Grade said that the Act is actually “way behind what was actually happening in the market” at the moment, but that the “overwhelming majority” of the report’s recommendations “could be enacted today.”
The report also references academic research around loot boxes. Dr David Zendle, a video game researcher, warned that there is an “extraordinarily robust” relationship between interacting with loot boxes and problem gambling. Furthermore, Dr Lukasz Walasek from the University of Warwick iterated that “exposure to legal gambling products during childhood/adolescence carries negative consequences for gambling behaviours in later life.” As a result, the researchers of this specific study “do not see any reason why the lootboxes shouldn’t be regulated in the same way as traditional forms of gambling.”