“Classify loot boxes as a form of gambling”, urges a new UK report

By Natalie Clayton
22 October 2019 09:24 GMT

Loot boxes must be classified as gambling, a UK commissioner’s new report insists.

In a report titled Gaming The System (due to be published today), Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield calls for authorities to include loot boxes in gambling legislation. Additionally, she also urges games introduce daily spending limits to curb spending sprees.

“Children have told us they worry they are gambling when they buy loot boxes, and it’s clear some children are spending hundreds of pounds chasing their losses,” said Longfield. “I want the government to classify loot boxes in games like Fifa as a form of gambling.”

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Now, Longfield doesn’t believe gaming itself is a social harm. Contrary to the World Health Organisation’s classification of Gaming Disorder as a disease, the report acknowledges that online gaming can help develop social bonds and strategic skill development.

But games companies have been accused of exploiting younger users, encouraging them to dump cash into gambling-style systems to keep up with their friends. Good old fashioned peer pressure, that. Loot boxes might not reward real money, but falling behind on Fifa Ultimate Team or the latest skins is far more of a concern for younger teens.

The report cites a number of young players with concerns over their own gambling habits, including one 14-year-old Fifa player who wrote: “I never get anything out of [buying packs] but I still do it.”

Longfield would also like digital games to be subject to legally-enforceable age ratings, akin to BBFC ratings on physical sales. Classifying loot boxes as gambling could mean slapping a big red “18” on any game featuring them.

A spokesperson for the government has already responded, saying: “We will carefully consider the concerns raised in this report in relation to excessive or gambling-like behaviour”.

Don’t hold your breath on that. We can’t imagine the UK government don’t have more pressing concerns right now. None at all. Nope.

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