The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is expected to launch a call for evidence in loot boxes that could see the feature of video games reclassified as a gambling product.
Loot boxes have been a controversial topic in recent years, raising concerns about whether they are encouraging children and younger audiences to gamble.
Loot boxes are items embedded in games that contain randomised rewards that at the point of purchase are uncertain. These can be cosmetic, such as ‘skins’ which change the appearance of an in-game character, or give users a gameplay advantage.
This video game element is not currently protected by established gambling laws in the UK due to the lack of monetary interest associated with the ‘won’ products – as the issue of loot boxes blurs distinctions between competitive gaming and gaming.
Labor MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a gambling-related harm cross-party group of MPs said: “They are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalise and encourage young people to take a chance. All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling.”
In September 2019, DCMS called for the implementation of new limits on the selling of loot boxes to those under 18.
In carrying out a study on ‘addictive and immersive technology,’ the DCMS proposed that online games should achieve the same age limit as physical sales of gambling goods in order to better protect their customers and that the gaming industry should contribute financially to independent studies on the long-term effects of gambling.
Meanwhile, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) had previously urged the Conservative Government to introduce legislation that would classify loot boxes and skin betting as forms of gambling legally recognised.