Efforts to regulate loot boxes as games of chance in Spain continue after the recent launch of consultation by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, seeking to identify ways to modify existing gaming law to include the controversial issue within its remits.
Should Gaming Law Be Changed?
The Gaming Law in Spain has not been updated since 2011 and the consultation is focusing on how to amend the law to allow regulatory agencies to have a say on in-game purchases and other play incentives which involve financial transactions.
“The loot box phenomenon can have potentially dangerous effects on certain groups of players.”Consultation Paper
Initial effort to put loot boxes under regulation in the country dates back to November 2020, when Mikel Arana, head of the General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling, announced the Government’s intention to introduce amendments to the Gaming Law so that it classifies as a game of chance loot boxes or other virtual items available for purchase with real money in video games.
Last month, Spanish gambling regulatory body Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) launched a public consultation into loot boxes, asking people whether the issue should be regulated within existing law, or a new regulation should be implemented. It also asked the public whether loot boxes should be outright banned.
“The evident connection of some random reward mechanisms with gambling also brings with it the negative consequences traditionally associated with the latter, which affect, in particular, certain vulnerable groups.”Consultation Paper
Licenses and Levies
Another issue the recent consultation is seeking to determine is whether video game publishers should apply for licenses in cases the games they offer feature loot boxes. Furthermore, the Ministry is looking into ideas on how to differentiate between different elements of in-game rewards to ascertain which exactly represent gambling and whether publishers should be charged a levy on their customer transactions.
The issues surrounding loot boxes continue to stir controversy across Europe as Spain became the latest EU member to launch a public consultation on the hot topic, besides Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Considered as a complex matter to harmonize by the Internal Market Council of the EU, loot boxes continue to be dealt with nationally due to the lack of transparent regulation to tackle such in-game mechanics, leaving individual member states to maintain differing judgments based on local gaming laws as to what can be perceived as a game of chance and what cannot.