Sixteen gambling regulators in attendance at the 2018 Gambling Regulators European Forum have signed on to tackle “the risks created by the blurring of lines between gaming and gambling”, indicating that a much more concerted effort is about to emerge that regulates and manages loot boxes in video games.
The signatories include the gambling authorities from Austria, Czech Republic, France, Gibraltar, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Latvia, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Washington State and the United Kingdom.
It’s an unusual assortment with only one from outside the EU, but shows that governments of all levels are taking the issue seriously, whether a Crown dependency, state or country. With the UK signing, it also indicates that some governments are changing their stance on loot boxes as more evidence comes to light and a consensus grows.
The driving force behind this is to rein in unlicensed third party websites that offer straight up illegal gambling via video games, such as skin betting sites attached to CS:GO that were cracked down on by Valve a couple years ago. The push is to get video game publishers to deal with these third parties more directly, but also to “ensure that features within games, such as loot boxes, do not constitute gambling under national laws.”
This comes in the wake of the Belgian ruling that has banned randomised paid loot boxes in video games and has seen Blizzard and 2K remove the ability to purchase them in games like Overwatch and NBA 2K. EA has resisted the ruling and is currently facing prosecution.