Videogame loot boxes should be reclassified as games of chance and regulated under the Gambling Act – so says the House of Lords in a report published today.
The report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry recommends that ministers declare that “loot boxes and any other similar games are games of chance,” bringing them under the purview of the Gambling Act 2005.
Loot boxes are in-app purchases that contain randomised rewards for players – typically new outfits, weapons, or other in-game items to use during play. Sometimes they can only be used by that player, but others can be traded online or even sold for real money.
“If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling,” the report reads, citing academic research proving a connection between loot boxes and problem gambling.
The government had previously promised to assess loot boxes in an upcoming review of the Gambling Act as a whole, but the Lords’ report specifically recommends “more urgent attention.”
The UK wouldn’t be the first country to regulate loot boxes. In 2018 Belgium reclassified loot boxes as gambling – making them illegal under Belgian law. The same year the Netherlands declared that loot boxes that allow you to transfer or trade their contents are gambling – and thus illegal – while those that are non-transferable would be treated as games.
“The majority of people in the UK play video games in one form or another, so we take these concerns seriously”, said Dr. Jo Twist, the CEO of Ukie – the gaming industry body that represents game companies in the UK.
“We’ve worked hard to increase the use of family controls on consoles which can turn off or limit spending and we will be working closely with the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport] during its review of the Gambling Act later this year”.
The Ukie statement highlights the introduction of a new ‘paid random item’ descriptor in the PEGI age rating system, along with the Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. Campaign, which encourages the use of parental controls.