Loot boxes promote gambling, says Scottish MP Ronnie Cowan, urging parents to not buy their children video games with loot boxes for the Christmas holidays.
Scottish MP Ronnie Cowan, the vice-chair of Westminster’s committee on gambling-related harm, has taken another jab at loot boxes, digital containers that award prizes on a random principle and have been often subject of criticism by lawmakers without any specific regulatory measures taken.
Now, though, Mr. Cowan is raising the alarm once again, appealing to the Scottish public and asking parents to boycott loot boxes during the Christmas holidays. According to the lawmakers, these loot boxes may be leading to higher incidence of underage gambling.
Mr. Cowan is adamant that loot boxes contain a gambling-like mechanic by offering a randomized prize at a financial cost. The lawmaker said that he was shocked that this fact was missing from the packaging or the websites selling the games.
He said that adding a warning sign would be a good step forward, but more so than that would be the outright ban of any gambling-related mechanics in video games, adding:
“The obvious danger is that they normalize gambling in a young audience and that increases their likelihood to gamble later in life with a reduced awareness to the potential harm.”-Scottish MP Ronnie Cowan
In an appeal to the Scottish public, he urged parents to decide against purchasing games for their children that may contain loot boxes. Today, that is a fair share of the video games released out there.
Loot Boxes: Public and Regulatory Perception in the UK
Loot boxes are an important element of the microeconomics of video games, and they often fuel staggering revenue leading to better bottom line for the companies that make the games.
Some see loot boxes as mandatory to guarantee a stellar service and extend a video game’s lifespan while others, including Mr. Cowan decry them as dangerous Trojan horses that lead to higher incidence of gambling addiction among young people.
In the United Kingdom alone, an estimated £270 million or $360.85 million was spent on loot boxes in 2019 alone by “young people,” according to a dossier looking into online gambling and addiction filed by David Bradford, a former gambling addict and his son, Adam.
Loot boxes may have not merited as much attention until now, but an undergoing review of the Gambling Act 2005 may soon see loot boxes restricted or qualified as gambling. Calls from concerned parties about the undefined nature of loot boxes have been frequent.
Do Not Normalize Gambling in Loot Boxes, Says GHA
A call by the Gambling Health Alliance (GHA) published at the NHS Addictions Provider Alliance brought up calls for the reclassification of loot boxes as a form of gambling and banning all U-18 individuals from accessing them.
GHA chair Duncan Stephenson said that the organization has established many irregularities with loot boxes warranting a closer examination, adding:
“Many young people today face a gamble every time they log on to play their favourite game and we’re concerned that this could very well normalize gambling for a generation of young people.”-GHA chai Duncan Stephenson
However, there is a growing support for the statement that loot boxes do indeed constitute a form of gambling, Stephenson explained.
Regulators Are Already on the Move
Loot boxes were banned in both Belgium and the Netherlands, forcing EA, a prominent publishing name in the video gaming industry, to suspend support for the feature in the countries for its flagship games, including the FIFA series.
EA is still litigating in the Netherlands, contesting a ruling by the country’s regulator, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), that the publisher had breached Dutch gambling laws in 2019.
Elsewhere, the company is looking at a class-action lawsuit that seeks 12 years’ worth of money spent on loot boxes. There have been repeated calls across Europe, Australia and the United States to reclassify loot boxes as gambling, and therefore unfit for younger audiences. In Spain, the Direccion General de Ordenacion del Juego (DGOJ), the country’s gambling regulator, said in November that it may look at the reclassification of loot boxes altogether.