UK Gambling Commission Says FIFA Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling

  • There are large secondary markets for in-game FIFA items, but they are not sanctioned by FIFA or EA
  • The game cannot be deemed to be gambling under UK legislation as it offers no way to exchange items for monetary gain
  • Many parents were not happy, saying their kids have spent hundreds and thousands on the likes of FIFA loot boxes
  • Some countries have banned video game loot boxes, with others considering doing something similar
fifa game being played on screen with game consoles
The Gambling Commission has concluded that the likes of FIFA loot boxes cannot be categorized as gambling according to UK legislation.

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. 

Users do not have an official method to monetize the items they receive from these packs and boxes.

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

Authorities across the globe are deciding for themselves if loot boxes can be categorized as gambling. Belgium, for example, banned loot boxes in April 2018. This came after these boxes were seen to be in breach of the country’s gambling laws following an investigation into four leading games.

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. 

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