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UK government urged to 'immediately' classify loot boxes as gambling

UK government urged to 'immediately' classify loot boxes as gambling

July 2, 2020 | By Chris Kerr

The House of Lords Gambling Committee has recommended that loot boxes are immediately classified as gambling in the UK. 

A report released by the committee, titled 'Gambling Harm - Time for Action,' advises the UK government to "act immediately to bring loot boxes with the remit of gambling legislation and regulation."

It's a notable move given the House of Lords' ability to shape and make new laws, and its role in checking and challenging the work of the UK government. 

That advice was informed by a number of concerns that have been frequently discussed as part of the ongoing loot box debate, namely the negative impact of the mechanic on young children and teens. 

Other countries have been more pro-active in their response to loot boxes. Legislators in Belgium, for instance, banned them back in 2018, prompting a swathe of high-profile companies like EA and 2K Games to tweak or remove the mechanic in titles like NBA 2K and FIFA

The Gambling Committee indicates the UK should follow suit. It claims that loot boxes are indeed a game of chance, and given their use in video games played by adolescents, should be regulated immediately. 

"We recommend that Ministers should make regulations under the Gambling Act 2005 specifying that loot boxes and any other similar games are games of chance, without waiting for the Government’s wider review of the Gambling Act," reads the report.

"Loot boxes first appeared in video games in the early 2010s, and despite growing concerns about their impact on children and young people, action has yet to be taken to regulate them in Great Britain. Neither the Government nor the Gambling Commission can afford to wait years before bringing new ‘gambling-like’ products within the remit of the Gambling Act."

While the committee accepts that its recommendation will "deal with the immediate issue of loot boxes," it's concerned that developers may create new products that once again "blur the distinction between video gaming and gambling."

If that happens, it has urged the government to work swiftly to protect children and young people from all "gambling and gambling-like products, not merely those that can be defined as a 'game of chance.'"

Although the government told the committee a planned future review of the Gambling Act would include loot boxes, it remains to be seen whether those in power will heed the new advice and push for more immediate reform. Those interested can read the full report here [PDF].

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