Loot Boxes Could be Regulated Under UK Gambling Act

Loot boxes are back in the spotlight as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) appoints yet another minister for gambling.

Loot boxes could be banned

Loot boxes could be banned as MP Helen Whately steps into DCMS gambling role. (Image: Twitter/@Helen_Whately)

Following months of back-and-forth on the video game upgrades, a DCMS select committee has called for tighter controls.

DCMS Report Tough on Loot Boxes

In a report published on September 12, the government department said loot boxes should be regulated under the Gambling Act. Additionally, the DCMS has called for a ban on the sale of loot boxes to children.

Although the report merely highlights the result of DCMS research and opinion, it could push the government into changing the law.

If that happens, it would signal a marked changed from the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) current stance.

A 2017 petition started a debate over the nature of loot boxes. Since that time, the UKGC has maintained the video game features fall outside of its jurisdiction as they’re not a form of gambling.

“A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired via a game of chance can be considered money or money’s worth,” reads the regulator’s 2017 assessment.

In practice, loot box items are “confined for use within the game,” which means it’s not classified as gambling under UK law. With that being the case, the UKGC isn’t obliged to take action against video game companies.

However, in recent months, it has said the bonus features are being monitored. In light of that, the DCMS report could tip the balance and see loot boxes fall under the scope of UK gambling law.

Departmental Changes Could Reshape UK Gambling

Should that happen, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent Helen Whately will have something else to keep in check. Owing to a major cabinet reshuffle, Whatley has been appointed as DCMS minister for gambling.

News of the appointment comes just six weeks after Rebecca Pow was given the job. That move was seen as a positive given her interest in horse racing.

However, with the government forced to expel 21 MPs and other senior Conservative Party members resigning, changes were necessary.

Pow will now move to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), clearing the way for Whately.

What the new MP for gambling thinks about the industry is unclear at this point.

However, her September 11 tweet suggests she’s looking forward to the challenge of maintaining the UK’s reputation as one of the safest gaming economies in the world.

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