Though the UK's Parliament might not view loot boxes in video games in quite the same light as they do regular gambling, they aren't ignoring other more clear-cut examples of child-targeted gambling on the Internet.
Numerous UK regulators including the Gambling Commission have recently ordered the immediate removal of child-targeted gambling game ads from casino websites.
The order comes in the form of a strongly-worded letter sent to over 450 "gambling operator websites" that featured "images that are likely to appeal particularly to under 18s." Letter co-signers include the Committee of Advertising Practice, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Remote Gambling Association.
In the letter, the four regulators offered games like Pirate Princess, Piggy Payout, Fluffy Favourites and Jack and the Beanstalk as examples of child-focused gambling games.
The following excerpt details the letter's primary complaint:
"Recent articles in the UK national press have highlighted a number of freely accessible ads on gambling operator websites, which feature images that are likely to appeal particularly to under 18s. This is unacceptable.
Gambling operators are required by the UK Advertising Codes and the conditions of their Gambling Commission licence to advertise responsibly with particular regard to the protection of under 18s and others who are vulnerable to being harmed or exploited by gambling advertising."
While many of these games function differently from one another on a technical level, their design themes are strikingly similar. The use of bright colors, "cartoon and comic book images," smiling animals, youth-targeted references and even the previously-mentioned game names themselves certainly seem like design decisions intended to appeal to a younger audience.
In a statement to The Sunday Times, UK Shadow Secretary Tom Watson criticized the companies' motives, claiming that "...companies need to acknowledge the harm they are doing by cynically targeting children online and remove these games, many of which can be played for 'fun' and without age verification, from their sites."
One recent investigation from The Times found that many of the companies behind the games in question had discovered "loopholes" that would theoretically allow them to bypass existing Gambling Commission regulations. One commonly-employed tactic involved the omission of otherwise legally-required age gates for free portions of the game while implementing them for paid portions of the game. Clearly, the UK doesn't agree with this interpretation of their gambling laws.