Earlier this year, the Australian Senate approved an investigation into loot boxes to be held by the Environment and Communications References Committee. Today, the committee has reported the results of those findings, and the final word is not kind. Among other things noted in the results, the committee says “loot boxes provide games companies with an unregulated way of exploiting gambling disorders amongst their customers.”
The report says “our large-scale study (n=7,422) found important links between loot box spending and problem gambling. The more severe gamers’ problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes.”
Based on that, the committee suggests that “loot boxes act as a gateway to problem gambling amongst gamers,” saying that there’s a “serious risk” for loot boxes to lead to “gambling-related harm.”
The full report suggests that games with loot boxes be given parental advisories, advertise the presence of “in-game gambling content” and that “serious consideration is given to restricting games that contain loot boxes to players of legal gambling age.”
Those are the recommendations of the Senate-commissioned committee, but they’ll only translate into action if legislation is passed. Previous action, like Belgium’s anti-loot box efforts, have depended on extending existing gambling laws to cover loot box-style transactions. But it sounds like that specific outcome is unlikely in Australia.
Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act 2001 is cited as the most likely applicable law for loot boxes, but since these digital transactions typically can’t be “cashed out” for real value, that law is unlikely to be applied here. There have been attempts to amend that law to extend to virtual items over the years, but those attempts have failed.
“Without such an amendment of the current Australian gambling laws,” the committee concludes, “enforcement action in terms of loot boxes is currently unlikely.”