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Questions submitted to UK government about loot boxes and gambling

A UK member of parliament is asking the government about loot boxes and gambling, as conversation about the controversial practice continues to grow.

Daniel Zeichner MP of the Labour Party has submitted questions regarding protecting the young and vulnerable from gambling and loot boxes in games, as well as asking specifically if tougher law practiced in the Isle of Man might be implemented across the UK.

The questions submitted by Zeichner are:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.

"To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man's enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in the UK.

Both questions were submitted in early October after the MP met with Reddit user Artfunkel to discuss whether existing gambling laws apply to loot boxes.

Games industry bodies PEGI, the ESRB and UKIE all suggest that loot boxes are not gambling, although none of those have any authority to define what it or isn't gambling in the respective countries.


UKIE, PEGI and the ESRB are all made up of companies operating in the games business.

The conversation around loot boxes has blown up in recent weeks as they appear more regularly in video games. In general, players spend real-world money on blind boxes for buffs and cosmetic items in game but do not know the content of the boxes until paid for and opened.

While loot boxes have been accepted in the free-to-play markets, that they have started to creep into full-priced boxed games is becoming increasingly contentious. Loot boxes can also be bought with virtual currency handed out for playing games as opposed to buying them outright with real-world cash, but the price of in-game currency is also raising eyebrows - Shadow of War, for instance, allows you buy a bundle of gold for £79.99, and that's on top of the £49.99 asking price of the base game.

The top four most anticipated games for holiday 2017 according to Nielsen all include a form of loot boxes.

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Matt Martin