Loot boxes contain no guaranteed items, meaning gamers are spending money on the chance they will get the desired item. This structure parallels gambling and has made loot boxes a special source of contention. In January of 2020, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) declared that loot boxes contribute to youth gambling addiction. In a release on the NHS website, Claire Murdoch, mental health director, wrote that jumanji slot the randomized, risk vs reward structure of loot boxes sets "kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble." The U.K. Is not alone in pointing out the predatory dangers of microtransactions and loot boxes, with some countries passing laws to combat the problem. Parents know children spend money buying video games, but it is some less-visible in-game purchases that could be worrisome later on, experts say.
Neither the Belgian electorate nor their representatives specifically voted on this policy question. It is not known whether the ban has popular support, especially if the present evidence on the ineffectiveness of the ban as currently applied is made known. Importantly, Belgian policymakers should not consider the loot box issue as having been ‘solved’ and should not be dissuaded from updating existing gambling law to address current and developing issues.
But Xiao also questions whether legislators and the public want to dismantle deceptive gambling practices or get rid of video games altogether. The date and time, based on Central European Summer Time (or Central European Time, depending on which was used by Belgium at the data collection period), on and at which paid loot boxes were searched for was recorded. The Country/Region setting of the Apple ID that was used on the coder’s iPhone was set to Belgium to ensure that the Apple App Store that loads is the Belgian Apple App Store. This guarantees that the game that was downloaded from then on was the Belgian version of the game specifically uploaded to and made available on the Belgian Apple App Store (regardless of whether or not the video game company actually made it different from the version(s) uploaded to other country’s Apple App Stores). In addition, the coder physically travelled to Belgium to ensure that he was within the Belgian geographical and legal jurisdiction when conducting the data collection.
- Some industry representatives had been “wilfully obtuse” when answering questions – particularly about what data they collected, how it was used, and the psychological techniques employed to increase player engagement.
- Xiao told the Deseret News that while several countries have presented bills to regulate microtransactions, few have succeeded when it comes to loot boxes.
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- If so, players would be entitled to have the money they spent on loot boxes refunded to them.
- The proximity of any facilities for gambling to the means of exchanging items for cash, overt relationships between the two and/or the ease with which such transactions are conducted, are likely to be the key considerations when prioritising our enforcement activity.
- While the Australian bill takes inspiration from other countries’ attempts to restrict microtransactions — both Spain and the Netherlands have proposed age-based restrictions on loot boxes, GamesRadar reported — successfully passing such a law may not be easy.
Those that can be bought for real money must now be removed from video games in Belgium. They were “structurally and psychologically akin” to gambling, the report found, yet are used by nearly half of children who play video games. "Many gamers do ascribe discrete financial values to loot box contents – based on purchase or resale price – suggesting that many loot boxes meet existing criteria for gambling regulation," the authors wrote. The https://twinspin-slots.com upcoming Gambling Act review is set to look at the question, with the UK’s House of Lords already having weighed in to say that loot boxes should be firmly regulated as "games of chance". This blog post will briefly examine loot boxes as a form of gambling that remains largely unregulated, despite a large portion of its consumers being minors, different responses to loot boxes around the world, and the potential regulation of loot boxes.
In reality, loot boxes are evidently still widely available for purchase, and their potential harms have not been removed from the country and may have reduced only to a limited extent (which is due to the actions of the finite number of compliant companies). This unfortunate state of affairs is potentially harmful because consumers might have been lulled into a false sense of security because they might think that the loot box ‘problem’ has been completely resolved by the ‘ban’ imposed by the Belgian Gaming Commission. For example, a player choosing to be less careful with their in-game spending or a parent deciding not to educate their child about loot boxes because they have been falsely assured that there is no longer any risk of harm.
UK will not ban video games loot boxes despite problem gambling findings
Research has suggested that loot boxes — virtual “treasure chests” with potential prizes inside some video games — may have ties to gambling addictions. Undoubtedly, the Belgian ‘ban’ has advanced the international debate on whether loot boxes should be regulated as gambling or otherwise, and this positive impact of the ‘ban’ should be duly recognised. The mid-2022 Belgian loot box prevalence rate of 82.0% is numerically higher than the mid-2021 UK loot box prevalence rate of 77.0% (where no effective loot box regulation has been imposed or enforced) (Xiao, Henderson, & Newall, 2021). However, this could simply be due to loot boxes becoming increasingly more prevalent due to the passage of time, which is a general trend that has previously been observed amongst UK iPhone games (Xiao, Henderson, & Newall, 2022).
Incentives for monetisation
In general, when a player receives a loot box, whether earned or purchased, they are going to receive some virtual items—they just don’t know which ones until they access or open the loot box. The odds of receiving a less sought after player is always greater than those for receiving a superstar. The rarity of the superstar cards is often what drove people to purchase pack after pack of baseball cards in hopes of getting lucky. The relevant defendant companies have since decided not to challenge the decisions, partly because these did not set any precedents that future courts must follow. Indeed, other judgments contrarily decided that the same loot boxes would not constitute illegal gambling.
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The present study cannot provide empirical evidence on whether an actively enforced ban could be effective at reducing loot box prevalence. However, any country considering also banning loot boxes should consider whether its gambling regulator (or relevant enforcer of the law) is capable of ensuring that the ban is actually effectively enforced. Unless another country has a regulator that is much better resourced than the Belgian Gaming Commission, it also does not appear likely that a loot box ban would work in that country.
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This means that offering loot boxes for sale in Belgium requires a gambling licence, but no such licence can be applied for and obtained by a video game company, and thus all paid loot boxes constitute illegal gambling and even adults are not allowed to purchase them. However, the restrictive course of action taken by Belgian policy is potentially overregulation because not all consumers will be harmed by loot boxes, yet now all Belgian players, both children and adults alike, cannot buy loot boxes. Loot boxes and other newer monetisation methods, compared to the old model of selling the software, allow for many players (including some who might not be able to afford purchasing the software) to gain access to entertainment and play certain games for free (Xiao, 2021b). The Belgian ban has arguably infringed upon the freedom and right to choose of players who would never have been harmed (Xiao, 2022d). Indeed, in contrast to this prohibiting approach, other alternative regulatory approaches that better ensure consumer choice (although potentially providing less consumer protection) are available. Regardless, to achieve a better compliance rate, the Belgian Gaming Commission must then need to carry out its threat of criminal prosecution of non-compliant companies.
On occasions where serious concern exists under those criteria we are clear that primary responsibility lies with those operating the unlicensed gambling websites. However, we will also liaise with games publishers and/or network operators who may unintentionally be enabling the criminal activity. As discussed last year, the highest Dutch administrative court decided that loot boxes generally cannot be regulated under gambling law. Since then, policymakers have found this to be unsatisfactory and proposed changing the law to emulate the Belgian position, and I received official confirmation from the then Dutch government in July 2023 that they were pursuing a loot box ban (and even intended to advocate for this to be done at an EU-level).
It is not clear what this will be, though the report specifically states that "the loot boxes must be removed" to come into line with gambling legislation. US authorities decided that games using loot crates did not constitute gambling because players do get some kind of reward when they acquire the boxes. Belgium’s Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, was keen to focus on how children are confronted with loot boxes, calling the mix of gaming and gambling "dangerous for mental health".
More technical and legal details (including source documents in their original language) are available at that link for those interested in delving deeper. RuneScape publisher Jagex admitted to the committee that players could spend up to $1,000 a week on micro transactions within the game. "They cited those things, but then they equally said there’s no evidence of causation here. They might not be able to support causation, but if people at serious risk of harm are engaging heavily in this form of monetisation, then it doesn’t matter whether loot boxes cause problem gambling." "The Gambling Commission has shown that it can and will take action where the trading of items obtained from loot boxes does amount to unlicensed gambling, and it will continue to take robust enforcement action where needed." "While many loot boxes share some similarities with traditional gambling products, we view the ability to legitimately cash out rewards as an important distinction," it said in the report.