UK Gambling Commission Okays Loot Boxes

Tia Winter | 26 July 2019

The debate as to whether Loot Boxes are a form of gambling or not has been raging for over a year, with advocates on either side. While some European jurisdictions have taken steps to ban some games altogether, the UK have always been on the fence about the situation. In November last year, the UK Gambling Commission said that they were not convinced that there was any real issue.

Now it seems they have reiterated their original statement, claiming that loot boxes do not qualify as a form of gambling, at least in the UK. A survey done in 2018 found that out of 2865 children, 30% had the opportunity to open a box but decided against it; presumably drawing the line between gambling and gaming.

A Legal Side

This information coupled with the fact that there is no official way to monetize loot boxes has resulted in the Commission deciding that loot boxes are allowed to stay. Speaking to the press, the Commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur said that loot boxes do not qualify as gambling under UK legislation.

According to UK law, prizes have to be awarded as cash or have a monetary value to be considered a form of gambling. He went on to say that there are many other examples that look and feel like gambling, but are also not classified as such according to legislation. These include competitions, but because they are free to play or have some type of free entry, they are not a problem.

Secondary Markets An Issue

The problem comes in with the unofficial secondary markets that do monetize loot boxes in the country. Program director for the UK Gambling Commission, Brad Enright said that game publishers face an on going battle with unauthorised secondary markets where loot boxes are bought and sold for cash. However, since these are unofficial markets, the boxes themselves are not classed as a gambling mechanism.

This decision comes just months after companies like Psyonix and Blizzard were ordered to remove paid loot boxes from their games after legislation was passed in the Netherlands and Belgium. For them, the threat is real. According to a study done in the UK, there has been a 400% increase in the number of minors with compulsive issues.