Loot boxes in video games like Fifa and Fortnite should constitute gambling under laws to protect children from addictive practices, MPs have advised.

The boxes, which allow gamers to buy a random assortment of in-game items, are difficult to define as gambling under current laws because the prize does not have monetary value.

The inquiry into immersive and addictive technologies investigated how gaming companies were generating vast amounts of revenue and data through the sale of such items.

MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee called for the sale of loot boxes to children to be banned and to regulate their distribution under the Gambling Act.

The committee also called on games companies and social media platforms to establish effective age verification tools in order to enforce any future bans relating to loot boxes.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm,” said Committee Chair Damian Collins. “Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.”

Loot boxes have become increasingly popular in video games, with FifaFortnite and others choosing to include them in their online stores.

Representatives for Fortnite developer Epic Games gave evidence before the committee, alongside representatives from social media firms like Snapchat and Instagram.

Earlier this year, Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said loot boxes were difficult to classify as gambling and therefore cannot be effectively policed.

“The Gambling Act tells us that gambling means playing a game of chance for a prize, and you can certainly see circumstances where a loot box might fall within that definition, but where things become a bit more complicated are when one looks at the definition of prize, and prize is defined as being money or money’s worth,” Mr McArthur explained.

“What that means is that the prize must mean something that is equivalent to money.”

Last year, loot boxes were banned in Belgium after a similar commission ruled that they represented an illegal form of gambling.

The committee also called on games companies and social media platforms to establish effective age verification tools in order to enforce any future bans relating to loot boxes.



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