Opinion - Loot Boxes

Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is a priority for myself and for the Government. The Gambling Commission as the regulator for gambling in Great Britain, has strong powers and can act where it needs to address emerging risks. 

Loot boxes do not fall under gambling law where the in-game items acquired are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out. However, the Government is aware of concerns that loot boxes could encourage participation in gambling and lead to gambling-related harm in the long-term. The Government and the Gambling Commission continue to look closely at evidence around these issues.

The Gambling Commission has previously released a paper detailing the existing protections in place for in-game gambling, virtual currencies and loot boxes. It can be found at the following link: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/Virtual-currencies-eSports-and…. The Gambling Commission has also agreed to work with other regulators from Europe and the USA, to monitor the characteristics of video games, particularly where there is potential cross-over into gambling. This includes raising parental and consumer awareness around a range of issues including loot boxes.

Other measures have also been put in place to protect children, advise parents and allow everyone to enjoy video games safely, including last year's introduction of a label for video games to warn parents where they include the opportunity to make in-game purchases such as loot boxes.

Game purchasers are also protected by general consumer law, which requires businesses not to subject anyone to misleading or aggressive marketing practices or direct exhortation to buy products, including in-game purchases such as loot boxes.

The Gambling Commission has already successfully prosecuted the operators of a website providing illegal gambling facilities for in-game items known as skins, which were accessible to children. It was the first regulator in the world to bring such an action, demonstrating its resolve to protect people playing video games from harm.

I have recently written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on this matter and hope to see more coordination between DCMS and the Gambling Commission to protect children from gambling in future.