The controversy over loot boxes has become big enough for the mainstream, and the cries for regulation of loot boxes as gambling have been loud enough for government officials to start taking notice. Belgium’s Gaming Commission is still investigating the matter and US senators are promising action. But the UK Gambling Commission suggests their hands may be tied.
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In a news post on the official Gambling Commission site, executive director Tim Miller says that loot boxes cannot be regulated under current UK gambling laws. That’s because in order to classify something as gambling, the potential rewards must either be money or “money’s worth.” In other words, they must have value outside of the game itself.
This means that unless your sick Battlefront Star Card is able to be sold outside of the game - which it currently isn’t - you won’t be seeing the UK take action against loot boxes under existing gambling law.
That doesn’t mean the commission is shrugging off the complaints, however. “Many parents are not interested in whether an activity meets a legal definition of ‘gambling',” Miller says. “Their main concern is whether there is a product out there that could present a risk to their children. We are concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred.”
Miller concludes, “whether gambling or not, we all have a responsibility to keep children and young people safe.” How - or even if - that translates into concrete action remains to be seen.