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Loot boxes could be recognised as a form of gambling due to fears over their impact on children

10 June, 2020

The UK government is launching a call for evidence into loot boxes to determine whether they contribute to the development of gambling-like behaviours and excessive in-game spending.

On Monday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) unveiled its response to the DCMS Select Committee’s report on immersive and addictive technologies

That report, which was published last year, concluded that chance-based loot boxes should not be sold to children – and the DCMS now says it will investigate whether loot boxes should be considered gambling in the UK.

Loot boxes are highly controversial microtransactions where a player uses either real money or in-game currency to buy a bundle of unknown items which are only revealed once the transaction has gone through.

Because of the chance element involved, concerns have been raised about their similarity to other recognised forms of gambling – leading countries such as Belgium, Netherlands and China to either restrict their availability or ban them outright.

Parent Zone has long been at the forefront of examining loot boxes’ impact on children and young people’s wellbeing and spending habits. Last year, our report The Rip-Off Games found that 49 per cent of young people who play video games thought they were only fun when they spent money.

Minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen more people than ever before turn to video games and immersive technology to keep them entertained and to stay in touch with friends and family.

“These innovations can present challenges though as well as opportunities, which is why we are taking the necessary steps to protect users and promote the safe enjoyment of this dynamic industry.”

The outcome of the call for evidence will inform the government’s decision on whether loot boxes should be recognised as a form of gambling and considered when the Gambling Act 2005 is due to be reviewed.

Currently, the Gambling Commission – which is responsible for regulating most of the UK gambling industry – does not consider the items won through loot boxes to be worth real money and can therefore not include them in gambling legislation.

In 2018, the annual spend on loot boxes in games reached $30bn (£23.5bn) worldwide, with experts predicting that the number will rise to $50bn (£39bn) within the next five years.

Image: Anchalee / Adobe Stock


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