It was only last week when the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced that loot boxes do not qualify as gambling. The way the ESRB sees it, loot boxes are the digital equivalent of trading cards. So at least for now, developers can continue to safely add loot boxes to their games without worry of receiving an AO rating. However, this opinion only applies in the US and other counties may view it differently.
In fact, two questions were presented on the floor of the UK Parliament last Friday regarding the use of loot boxes in video games. The items were brought forward by Labour MP Daniel Zeichner and submitted to the minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley.
“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.”
“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man’s enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in the UK.”
The first proposal asks what the Secretary plans on doing about gambling in video games with the foregone conclusion that loot boxes are in fact gambling. The second looks to examine following the example of regulations set by the Isle of Man.
A Reddit user who goes by the handle Artfunkel claims that he was the one who submitted the questions for Zeichner to present. He says his goal is to see the UK apply existing gambling laws to loot boxes. He points out that the Isle of Man (a British territory) has already defined loot boxes as “money's worth in its gambling law.”
Artfunkel acknowledges that a response to the proposals will initially remain “non-committal” on the issue. However, he hopes that it will at least initiate a discussion. He estimated that it could take up to a month before we hear any official word on the questions from Parliament heads. It seems, however, that a response was much quicker than Artfunkel anticipated.
Member of Parliament Tracey Crouch, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, issued a statement today in response to both questions. Crouch points out that definitions and protections already exist regarding loot boxes and other in-game currencies, referencing a paper published by the UK Gambling Commission earlier this year.
"Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action. [sic]"
So like the ESRB, Britain's Parliament does not see that any further actions regarding loot boxes need to be taken at this time. However, the Gambling Commission will continue to look at games on a case-by-case basis. If it appears a game or developer is offering unlicensed gambling, the commission has regulatory authority to shut it down.
Crouch also points out that the Gambling Commission will continue to review and monitor developments in the market.
Top Image courtesy Destructoid