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Call for the ban of Loot Boxes in video games in the UK.

GambleAware, one of the major bodies in charge of promoting responsible gambling in the United Kingdom, has implored the incoming government to seriously contemplate bringing in better legislation that will oversee loot boxes used in many video games.

As one of the main priorities of GambleAware is the well-being of the UK citizens, the body is already lobbying that the incoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who will replace Boris Johnson, prioritise putting in place better regulations regarding the use of loot boxes in video games. These new regulations will further protect people in danger of gambling addiction and other associated risks, especially underage players and young children.

This move by GambleAware is also supported by the Children’s Commissioner for England. The body has engaged itself in the argument that loot boxes be banned in video games and categorised as gambling as it puts children in danger since these microtransactions are not monitored or censored.

What are Loot Boxes?

Loot boxes aren’t conventional Esports betting offered by many UK betting apps. They are considered an indirect means of encouraging players to spend money by buying boosters to increase the chances of winning a game. The problem, however, is the fact that these loot boxes, in reality, offer little to zero probability of winning, hence the continuous cycle of purchasing a loot box in the hope of winning a game and therefore earning more money for the game provider.

In response to the worrying effect of loot boxes, the United Kingdom government published its discoveries from research conducted by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sports (DCMS).

The research showed that video game players who have bought loot boxes in the past, compared with people who have never paid for the box, face a higher likelihood of experiencing mental health issues, gambling-related problems, financial difficulties, and several other issues associated with E-gaming. The research further revealed that these risks are greater for young children and underage players.

However, rather than following in other countries’ footsteps and recommending a total ban on loot boxes, the DCMS report did not include a ban. Instead, the administration simply encouraged gaming companies to put in further protective measures to reduce the unavoidable danger and effect of loot boxes in video games. The report included suggestions on how to mitigate the effect of loot boxes:

  • Requesting parental approval before allowing the purchase of any commodity while playing a game for players under the age of 18 years.
  • Game providers should increase their honesty about a player’s chances of winning if the loot box or specific portion of the loot box is purchased.
  • Extra precaution and security for the few players spending large amounts of money on loot boxes rather than those who spend less to reduce the risks these minority players will most likely face.

The report merely suggested the consideration of new legislation if game developers and companies fail to implement new features that will enhance and further improve the security and safety of players, especially young children and underage players.

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In response to the government’s report, GambleAware commented on their official Twitter account, “Research shows that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling, and we are concerned about the risks to children.

It is encouraging to see the government recognise the risks of loot boxes; however, we hope to see legislative action considered.” This comment also consisted of disturbing statistics, which showed that 40% of children who play video games purchase loot boxes and use them in one mode or another. The UK government has refused to take action and has simply allowed gaming companies to deal with the matter as they deem fit.

Conclusion

Suppose the government eventually implements any form of legislation or categorises loot boxes as gambling. In that case, the UK will join other nations like Spain and Netherlands, which have both regulated loot boxes. However, considering the government’s relaxed approach to such a delicate issue and a large amount of revenue loot boxes generate for game developers, the adjustments sought may not be in sight.