Loot box will finally be treated as a form of gambling, says Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson. Amid rising concerns about increase in addictive behavior among youngsters in the United Kingdom, Mr. Watson is on a mission to address the issue head on.
Loot Boxes Are Gambling, Says Tom Watson
Video gaming is easily a favorite pastime. Whether you play the highly-competitive esports games or dabble in storyline-rich single player games, or even play a quick Brawl Heroes on your smartphone, the fact is that you are likely to be a gamer, to some extent.
With gaming, companies have been introducing various in-game treats to make the experience more individualistic for every player.
This is where the industry has discovered a new way to maximize profits by offering various in-game cosmetics and particularly – loot boxes.
Though the nature of loot boxes is divisive, with some decrying the digital containers as an outright form of gambling, whereas others advise caution, Mr. Watson is convinced that these boxes are becoming a “gateway” to betting addiction.
Describing himself as a keen gamer, Mr. Watson believes to be in a unique position to spearhead additional safeguards that would protect children from developing a gambling addiction based on their in-game purchases of skins and loot boxes:
The natural lookout post for the controls on loot boxes would be the Gambling Commission.
Mr. Watson is correct to leave the UKGC to decide whether loot boxes constitute a gambling problem or are indeed a gateway to addictive behavior.
In its most recent report, the Commission noted that the number of adolescent “gambling” had increased, but that wasn’t’ necessarily linked with loot boxes. In fact, no such connection was established.
Though the Gambling Commission has no special responsibility to regulate these in-game goods, it may act should it consider them to be falling within the remit of the Gambling Act. Experts have so far largely agreed that loot boxes simply constitute gambling under another form, because of the chance factor that determines what each individual box contains.
In light of this, the Commission did remind that it was monitoring the issue:
We have joined forces with other regulators to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children.
According to a recent survey, awareness of skins and loot boxes was high among children aged 11-16, with 15% reporting awareness of skin betting websites, but only 3% saying that they have ever placed a wager using skins.
Loot boxes, though were way more popular with underage gamers, with over 50% reporting that they were aware of them and the fact they can be acquired in exchange for money. Estimated 33% have purchased a loot box either using parent or guardian help, or investing their own means.
While the UKGC is still maintaining its position on loot boxes, a recent survey has claimed that loot boxes are more akin to gambling than previously suspected. Yet, no firm stance has been taken on the matter. Will Mr. Watson just about change that?