UK could reclassify loot boxes as gambling products

There have been calls for the video game rewards to be age restricted.
There have been calls for the video game rewards to be age restricted.

The UK government is to launch an investigation into video game loot boxes to analyse whether they should be reclassified as gambling products.

UK.- The government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is to launch an investigation into video game loot boxes following the publication of a report into “addictive and immersive technologies.”

The investigation could be a step towards reclassifying loot boxes as gambling products.

Loot boxes that can be bought or earned in video games contain randomly chosen rewards that are unknown until they are opened.

Rewards range from “skins” that can change a character’s appearance to power-ups that can give players an advantage in the game.

They are not covered by current UK gambling legislation since the products won do not have monetary value, but critics have claimed they encourage children to gamble. 

Several bodies, including the Royal Society for Public Health and the Children’s Commissioner for England have called for loot boxes to be reclassified as gambling products and receive the corresponding age restrictions.

The DCMS said it recognised that the video games sector formed a key part of the UK’s creative industries, but that more research was needed to ensure audiences were protected. 

The department said it would now launch a call for evidence and carry out further research in the area, including through workshops with academic and industry players.

The Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, said: “The government has committed to tackling issues around loot boxes in response to serious concerns about this model for in-game purchasing.

“A call for evidence on loot boxes will examine links to gambling-like behaviour and excessive spending in games. The findings will provide a solid foundation for future steps and will be considered alongside a review of the Gambling Act.”

The department also announced it would set up a roundtable meeting on the future of esports in the UK.

Dinenage said: “The increased time at home in recent weeks has highlighted the increasing popularity of esports in the UK through events linking gaming to traditional sports like the Formula One virtual Grand Prix series and the ePremier League Invitational.

“Today’s response also includes plans to develop on the potential of this burgeoning industry whilst ensuring the safety of competitors and audiences is paramount. DCMS will host a ministerial roundtable with a wide range of stakeholders to explore the future of esports in Britain.”

The full response to the report on addictive and immersive technologies can be read here

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