The U.K. says loot boxes are a form of gambling and shouldn’t be sold to kids

    Loot box

    A new report from the United Kingdom parliament condemns loot boxes found in many video games as a form of gambling and recommends banning the sale of loot boxes to children.

    Lawmakers in both the U.K. and the U.S. have been looking into whether or not loot boxes found in video games should be considering a form of gambling. The report from U.K. Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee (DCMS), published on Thursday, calls on game companies to add age verification tools to ensure kids don’t buy loot boxes.

    “Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up,” said the DCMS Committee Chair, Damian Collins, in the report. “We challenge the Government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.”

    Loot boxes are purchasable virtual crates that when opened offer players an assortment of randomized items or “loot.” Loot items include in-game currency, character customization options like costumes and weapons, and items that enhance in-game performance.

    The report points to an example of one gamer who spent £1000 (about $1,235) in one year on the FIFA game series. 

    The Committee says that teenagers who play these games are more vulnerable to developing possible gambling habits than adults are when it comes to loot boxes. 

    Other popular games that have loot boxes include Star Wars: Battlefront 2, which ties the actual game progression to random chance in the loot boxes — which some discourage as a pay-to-win tactic. Madden, Call of Duty, and Rocket League also have loot boxes.

    In 2017, Belgium ruled that loot boxes are a form of gambling and banned them a year later.

    In the U.S., Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a bill in May called The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act. The proposal would ban loot boxes and pay-to-win micro-transactions for games geared at children under 18. 

    The ESA told Digital Trends that they don’t agree with the DCMS report.

    “We take seriously the issues raised in the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, but strongly disagree with its findings. As demonstrated by the recent announcement of policies regarding the disclosure of the relative rarity or probability of obtaining virtual items in paid loot boxes as well as the robust parental controls that empower parents to control in-game purchases, the video game industry is a leader in partnering with parents and players to create enjoyable video game experiences,” an ESA spokesperson told Digital Trends. “In addition, numerous regulatory bodies around the world, including those in Australia, France, Ireland, Germany, and the UK, have come to a conclusion starkly different than that of this committee.”

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