UK Gambling and Loot Box Issue Receives Government Response  

UK gambling laws and the computer games industry could be set for a collision course after their interaction became the source of a debate amount Members of Parliament (MPs).

Tracey Crouch loot boxes.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Tracey Crouch responds to the issue of gambling and loot boxes. (Image: standard.co.uk)

At the start of October, a petition calling for the regulation of gambling features in video games was posted online and has since gone on to receive more than 11,000 signatures.

Although Conor Rhys Deeley’s petition will remain open until April 4, 2018, one MP has already pushed the government for a response.

The Debate is Already Underway

According to UK law, petitions with 100,000+ signatures can be discussed in Parliament. At this stage, Deeley’s request is a long way short of that mark, but Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has taken it upon himself to pick up the baton and run with it.

After talking with Reddit user Artfunkel, Zeichner posed two questions to the government on October 6. The first question submitted online asks the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Tracey Crouch to outline the steps being taken to protect children from illegal gambling and loot boxes.

In response, Crouch pointed to the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) March 2017 assessment that any item that could be traded or gambled for cash outside of a game would require a gambling licence.

Has the UKGC Covered Loot Boxes?

However, the issue with loot boxes in particular is that players are paying for them without knowing what they’re going to receive.

Much like a mystery box game, players will purchase in-game credits with real cash and then use them to buy a loot box. At this point, the box will reveal a mystery prize with a value that can be more or less than what was paid for the box.

For the people such as Deeley, this constitutes a form of gambling and should, therefore, come under government regulation. In line with this, China recently passed a law which mandates gaming companies to publish the odds and results of loot box draws.

This relatively new system is something that doesn’t appear to be covered in the UKGC’s recent overview of gambling in computer games. In response to Zeichner’s second question regarding the effectiveness of the Isle of Man’s protections against things such as loot boxes, Crouch provided an identical answer.

Although Artfunkel expected the responses to be fairly noncommittal, his intention was to start a dialogue on the subject. With the help of Zeichner, it seems he’s managed to achieve this in at least some small way.

Should the discussion continue and Deeley’s petition attract more signatures, there’s a strong chance the loot box question will debated in Parliament in the coming months.

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