British Parliament discusses extending gambling laws to loot boxes

Rebekah D. September 15, 2019

Members of the UK Parliament have called for gambling laws to be applied to purchasable loot boxes in video games.

Should the motion pass, players under the age of 18 would not be able to purchase loot boxes in any video game.

Following a nine-month-long investigation into the nature of immersive and addictive technologies, a report was published this week that looked into the possible negative effects of gaming and social media. Evidence was collected from a number of sources to probe into potentially addictive facets of gaming, with companies such as Epic Games, Jagex, and Facebook taking part.

The report focused on the possible financial and physical harm of playing video games. It also looked into other negative aspects of gaming such as cyberbullying, the recently recognized Gaming Disorder, and the effects of exposing youths to age-restricted content.

Out of the three, loot boxes and similar microtransactions seemed to upset the committee the most, particularly as Jagex, the company behind online game RuneScape, admitted players could spend up to £1,000 a week or £5,000 a month on in-game purchases.

The report also specifically hones in on skin betting, which allowed players to wager items from Steam on esports contests, primarily in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 

Given some strong similarities between certain titles and gambling, it was suggested by the Parliamentary Committee of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports that the UK’s gambling laws should be extended to video games. According to Damien Collins MP, chairman of the committee, games with gambling features should not be sold to those underage.

The committee also suggested that, to avoid age restrictions being put in place, games should instead offer loot boxes or in-game bonuses as progress rewards, rather than enticing those who are potentially vulnerable with a game of chance.

The report also suggested stronger restrictions on age-related content, and called for gaming companies to be more responsible for their players’ welfare in general. It suggested a new “statutory duty of care” that could become UK Law.

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