Belgium, Netherlands say loot boxes are gambling

Belgium, Netherlands say loot boxes are gambling

on | OpenCritic

In a statement on the Belgian Ministry of Justice website, Minister Koen Greens stated made the following statement:

In the case of FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the Gaming Commission considers that the system of loot boxes is a game of chance that is subject to Belgian gaming law.

Greens hopes that this report will start a dialogue between the Gaming Commission, European Union, and the game publishers, citing serious concerns about the combination of video games, gambling, and mental health in minors.

Meanwhile, Star Wars Battlefront 2 was cited as in compliance after they removed premium currencies last November. EA has also recently announced a revamped progression system for their arcade shooter, hoping to make right by fans after a controversial launch. Warner Bros also recently announced their intention to remove loot boxes from Shadow of War.

Belgium's move comes after the Netherlands Gaming Authority issued a broader report last week. However, this report focuses on three different games in addition to FIFA 18: Dota 2, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and Rocket League. Some of the key data points referenced:

  • 70% of the population of the Netherlands played a video game sometime in 2009. It's estimated that 75-95% of minors play video games.
  • In surveys, addiction care specialists and gambling addiction specialists reported that people often spend too much on loot boxes unintentionally.
  • There are no indications of loot boxes creating large scale societal problems.
  • Four of ten games investigated were found to be in violation of Netherlands' Betting and Gaming Act.

In the Netherlands, the difference between legal and illegal behavior seems to hinge on whether or not the items have market value. This may be why the Netherlands' report focuses more on games with items that can be traded on Steam.

The United States also has a few groups looking into loot boxes. Hawaiian lawmakers introduced loot box legislation this past February, while Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has been pressing the ESRB to re-examine loot boxes.

Looking ahead, this doesn't seem to be a topic that's likely to go away. Last summer, Tencent imposed limits on minors' mobile game time in their top game, Honor of Kings. And at the start of 2018, the World Health Organization declared gaming addiction as a mental health condition.

About the Authors