EA Dismisses Loot Box Links with Gambling

Tia Winter | 10 May 2018

Gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA) has firmly stated that loot boxes, commonly found in video games, should not be considered a form of gambling. EA CEO Andrew Wilson noted his feelings on the matter in an investor call last week, just weeks after the in-game items were found to have violated numerous gambling laws in countries around the world.

It was in fact a game from EA that sparked the on going saga over the nature of loot crates and whether or not they should be classified as gambling. Last year, EA launched the newest instalment of its Star Wars games; Star Wars Battlefront II. The game was immediately embroiled in debates about the unpredictable contents of its loot boxes, with its publisher pulling the boxes from the title following the negative press at its release.

Loot Crate Investigations Continue

Numerous national gambling regulators, including those in Belgium and the Netherlands, launched investigations into loot boxes following this debacle to determine whether or not they offered gambling to vulnerable players. Typically, the boxes contain mystery items that could help players in-game or be of little help – and there is no way of knowing which they will do until they are purchased for real money.

Regulators raised concerns based on the fact that players do not know what the boxes contain until they buy them. This, according to many experts, could constitute gambling like playing any casino game, and it also seems as though players are not being informed of the odds of gaining certain coveted objects through loot box purchases. This has created even more controversy over the nature of the items.

Wilson noted in last week’s investor call that EA firmly believes that loot boxes are not a form of gambling. The CEO added that players can only ever gain a specific number of items per box, and that the games developer does not condone cashing out or selling the items in the virtual boxes for online currency or real fiat cash.

Regulators Find Offending Games

However, regulators’ findings have differed somewhat from this view. Authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands both carried out investigations into the matter, releasing their official findings in April. They found that many of the loot box-containing video games they probed violated local gambling regulations in their respective countries, with the Dutch Gambling Authority finding that at least 40% of the loot boxes surveyed broke local laws.

According to the Netherlands’ Betting and Gaming Act, any features that incorporate elements of chance into skills-based games without the necessary approvals is strictly prohibited. The Belgian Gaming Commission also discovered three offending video games, although the regulator did not believe that the Star Wars Battlefront II game had violated its own regulations.

Now, most recently, Norway has also become involved, with the findings soon to be revealed as the loot box debate rages on.

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