The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has stated it does not deem FIFA loot boxes and the likes of FIFA player packs to be gambling. This is because users do not have an official method to monetize the items they receive from these packs and boxes.
To be seen as gambling under the respective legislation, the prize would need to be money or have some form of monetary value. This categorization came as part of a report from the Gambling Commission to British MPs.
There are third-party platforms which will cater to the purchasing and selling of these in-game items, but these are not official platforms.
According to Brad Enright, the program director for the commission, the FIFA franchise’s video game publisher, Electronic Arts (EA), is constantly battling against these types of secondary markets.
There is a large demand for these markets according to Enright. For FIFA games, players receive certain players and other in-game content in packs after they purchase them. People will then trade these items for in-game currency or for other players.
Concern about loot boxes
Many parents spoke to the BBC about how their kids spend hundreds of pounds on these in-game items. They believe that, due to there being an element of chance in what items they receive, it tempts the kids to keep buying the packs to try and get the players they want. In one case, a child spent over £3,000 buying FIFA player packs.
The chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur, does relate to these parental concerns. He believes there are serious consequences relating to kids playing video games which have aspects of chance and expenditure. However, current legislation does not categorize this as gambling. He said:
There are other examples of things that look and feel like gambling that legislation tells you are not – [such as] some prize competitions but because they have free play or free entry they are not gambling… but they are a lot like a lottery.”
Reacting to the Commission’s report, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson called for tighter regulation in the gaming space. He says there are “considerable fears” that video games can act as a gateway for other types of gambling.
Global loot box battle
EA initially fought against this ban, but ultimately they relented and complied with the ban in the country.
There were calls from US Senator Josh Hawley to ban loot boxes and transactions with a pay-to-win system, as part of his Protecting Children from Abusive Games Bill. Hawley believes that addiction should not be monetized, and that game developers should face legal action for targeting kids.
The United States Federal Trade Commission is beginning an investigation into the topic in August. It aims to take a deep dive into the issues involving in-game purchases, as well as determine conclusively if it should be deemed to be gambling.
Other countries have come out and said that loot boxes are not a form of gambling. These include New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Ireland.