The UK’s governing body has issued a response to a pair of citizen-submitted questions on the hot topic of in-game loot boxes and their relation to gambling.
According to Eurogamer, the questions in question asked the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport if she had plans to “protect vulnerable adults and children” from gambling in the form of loot boxes and for her views on the effectiveness of other governing bodies' protections against the in-game loot system.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Tracey Crouch issued an identical statement in response to each question, implying that purchasing random-chance loot boxes isn't exactly gambling since the items in question don’t have a monetary value themselves, but that the UK’s Gambling Commission will keep the matter under observation.
Her response doesn’t call out or directly touch on in-game loot boxes themselves, however. Instead, she brings up a paper from The Gambling Commission published earlier this year that deals with the topic of game-related gambling, mostly as it pertains to the Counter-Strike skin gambling debacle that saw in-game items used as a sort of gambling chip for digital wagers.
“Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission license is required,” reads the response. “If no license is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.”
“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the core objectives of the regulation of gambling in Great Britain and a priority for the government. The Gambling Commission have a range of regulatory powers to take action where illegal gambling is taking place. Earlier this year the Gambling Commission successfully prosecuted the operators of a website providing illegal gambling facilities for in-game items which was accessible to children - the first regulator in the world to bring such an action.”
“The government recognize the risks that come from increasing convergence between gambling and computer games. The Gambling Commission is keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market.”
Video game rating boards in both the US and the UK have weighed in on the issue of loot boxes as a gambling mechanic of late, with the ERSB instead likening them to a pack of trading cards and PEGI choosing to leave the verdict up to The Gambling Commission.