Not gambling, says UK digital minister
The UK’s Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries says that there isn’t enough evidence to show that loot boxes constitute gambling.
Speaking to MPs at the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee about the addictive nature of gaming technologies, Margot James said:
I would contest the assumption that loot boxes are gambling and I don’t think that all the evidence that I’ve read from your committee’s hearings would support that assumption, either.
However, she did add that the government would act as a bridge between the issue of loot boxes, their popularity with young children, and whether this could later bring about a gambling addiction, reports The Telegraph. At present, though, her views were clear when she stated that there are “big differences” between the two.
Loot boxes are a means of people purchasing items, skins, to enhance the gaming experience, not through an expectation of an additional financial reward. Also, importantly, they cannot be traded offline for money.
Not everyone agrees with her opinion. In particular, committee chair Damian Collins compared loot boxes to a “roulette wheel.” He added: “You don’t know what you are going to get, or how good it is going to be, but you are spending money and speculating to get better players for your team.”
Two jurisdictions see them as gambling
There is a wider debate around this issue. Several jurisdictions have asked whether video games that contain loot boxes can lead to an addictive lifestyle, particularly in the young.
For instance, the Dutch Gambling Authority and the Belgium Gambling Commission stated last April that loot boxes violated their gambling laws. They were the first to take decisive action over them. More recently, the UK’s Labour Party promised a ban on loot boxes if it wins the next election. Yet, while it’s easy to make promises in the short-term, the UK doesn’t seem set on changing its gambling laws regarding them.
And it’s not alone in its thinking.
France is one country that has said they aren’t a form of gambling, while the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has spoken out against a U.S. Senator stating that loot boxes shouldn’t be considered gambling.
There are, of course, two sides to every argument, which is certainly the case with this issue.
With more than 450,000 young people in the UK who gamble regularly and 55,000 children and young people aged between 11 and 16 years of age who have a wider problem, it’s hard not to see that more needs to be done to prevent the problem becoming worse.
With the U.K. Government taking no action for the moment, Brandon O’Hara, a Scottish National Party MP, questioned whether it was being “rather complacent” over the issue.
James responded by saying that they were far from complacent, but added, “It is important that before regulation and action of that nature is attempted that we get a better understanding of the root causes of the sort of problems you are alluding to.”