UK Government response to petition on Lootboxes

So, here in jolly old blighty, we have a system where you can submit a petition to the government, and if enough people sign it, they respond, and if even more people sign it, it has a chance to be debated in parliament.

This has been used for a number of topics, but as of recent, a petition to adapt gambling laws to accommodate "Gambling in video games" as they target, or may potentially mislead children.

After reaching 14,000~ Signatures at the time of writing, it has also received a response from the government. And it's quite a long one, so, I'll give it a quick TLDR.

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The first part of the response:

The response starts very aggressively. Immediately, the gambling commission states its pledge to protect children and the vulnerable from gambling, basically repeating this statement twice. It seems more of a gauntlet to the industry than a response to those writing the petition. They state in no uncertain terms that they will do everything they can to protect people on the internet from being harmed by gambling.

This is pretty unusual. Most responses to this are more gentle, and imply a "Oh, we'll think about it" sort of response. In comparison, the wording here is very stern.

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They then go on to cite a report published in March of 2017 about what they expect from Esports and gaming in regards to gambling.

http://www.GamblingCommission.gov.uk/PDF/Virtual-currencies-eSports-and-social-casino-gaming.pdf

What this report says is basically the following rules must be obeyed:

  • In-game items that can be converted into cash or traded for items of real-world value must be licensed by the Gambling Commission.
  • It is an offence to invite a child to gamble, and where there is a failure to prevent underage gambling, the Commission will take regulatory and/or criminal action.
  • Where the facility exists for players of video games to purchase a key to unlock a bundle containing an unknown quantity and value of in-game items as a prize, and where there are readily accessible opportunities to cash in or exchange those awarded in-game items for money or worth, then these elements of the game are likely to be considered licensable gambling activities.
  • In contrast, where prizes are restricted for use solely within the game, such in-game features would not be licensable gambling.
  • The Gambling Commission is committed to working with the video game industry to prevent gambling-related harm related to their platforms.

So, basically, what this means is, that Steam's Marketplace, and the use of lootboxes must be licensed by the gambling commission. They clearly fall within these parameters, as they offer boxes which contain an unknown bundle of items, and these may be then traded for money, or things worth money. This also applies to any game wherein you can buy keys, or a box, or whatever, get an item, and sell that on steam's market.

From there, they state, buying a random box and getting an item that isn't possible to sell or redeem, is not in itself gambling. However, in the next sentence they say they're "looking into it".

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The final few sections are basically just them talking about working with PEGI and other organizations to better inform consumers, and potentially take action against games which do not fall within these guidelines. Their final statement is quite ominous on this.

"The government recognises the risks that come from increasing convergence between gambling and video games. The Gambling Commission is keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market."

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Super TLDR:

Lootboxes where you can trade items for money fall under an already existing law that requires them to have a gambling license, and those that don't, or the items cannot be exchanged for money are being "Monitored closely".

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And you can read the whole thing here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/201300

I imagine the guys at valve are feeling awfully sweaty about now.

If I don't bad remember, EU already tried something like this on F2P mobile games a time ago. Good intentions; bad implementation (specially from the part of Apple and Google): games that shouldn't had been removed from the store were removed, and games that should had been removed managed to stay through loopholes.

I imagine WB, EA, Activision and Blizzard have more reason to sweat than Valve.

Well, certainly keeping a close eye on this.

Keep in mind, in regard to prove your age when it comes to gambling i.e passport and/or drivers license with proof of address there are also legal causes like under the Gambling ACT 2005 section 83 (1) states that the stake money must be refunded to the Young person however the prize money must be retracted. Also under the Gambling ACT 2005 section 58, failing to refund the stake without an reasonable excuse is committing an offence.

Of course when it comes to proof of age, you are gulity till proven innocent.

Rightfully so, disgruntled parents can take these companies to court with also the added fact the government said it was an act of gambling.

To be honest, I would rather not have government regulation come in as an adult with no children. It will cause far more headaches to the average gamer. No longer can you pick-up and play but instead have to go though layers of bureaucracy before you can even play a game.

mad825:

To be honest, I would rather not have government regulation come in as an adult with no children. It will cause far more headaches to the average gamer. No longer can you pick-up and play but instead have to go though layers of bureaucracy before you can even play a game.

hopefully that will finally force the publisher from including those amoral and unethical practices in their games so an average gamer would not have to worry about the hassle or being psychologically assaulted and buying incomplete games in the future.

Strazdas:

mad825:

To be honest, I would rather not have government regulation come in as an adult with no children. It will cause far more headaches to the average gamer. No longer can you pick-up and play but instead have to go though layers of bureaucracy before you can even play a game.

hopefully that will finally force the publisher from including those amoral and unethical practices in their games so an average gamer would not have to worry about the hassle or being psychologically assaulted and buying incomplete games in the future.

As an adult who has no children and who's never bought a loot box, this is exactly what I want my government to do. Classify this as gambling so they can't continue to exploit children
Video games will still be there, developers will just have to figure out how to sustain the rising costs of game development without preying on the gullible and vulnerable and children

The Lunatic:

Lootboxes where you can trade items for money fall under an already existing law that requires them to have a gambling license, and those that don't, or the items cannot be exchanged for money are being "Monitored closely".

Dear greedy shitheel developers who are looking for the next step in extortionist lottbox design, stop. You keep going on this road and you'll build the very guillotine that's going to cut your shit down to size.

Ya'll are on notice.

DrownedAmmet:

mad825:

To be honest, I would rather not have government regulation come in as an adult with no children. It will cause far more headaches to the average gamer. No longer can you pick-up and play but instead have to go though layers of bureaucracy before you can even play a game.

As an adult who has no children and who's never bought a loot box, this is exactly what I want my government to do. Classify this as gambling so they can't continue to exploit children
Video games will still be there, developers will just have to figure out how to sustain the rising costs of game development without preying on the gullible and vulnerable and children

Ugh.
image
You know what's more concerning than loot boxes? Children gaining access to their parents financial details. You want all loot boxes banned for children? Then that's an easy thing to do, just order PEGI to classify loot boxes out of specific age groups.

Strazdas:

hopefully that will finally force the publisher from including those amoral and unethical practices in their games so an average gamer would not have to worry about the hassle or being psychologically assaulted and buying incomplete games in the future.

pfffffttt. When has that never been the case? Why not stop at loot boxes? What about those season passes? What about pre-orders? why not just DLCs in general, I do remember a time on the escapist when DLCs were the rave. How dare they replace expansions and how dare they sell us locked content on discs.

Anarchy! Anarchy! Smash the gaming industry.

I look forward to the removal of Lucky Dip at the fair.

There's a general crack down on gambling in the UK at the moment which, amazingly enough, doesn't revolve around loot boxes. The main focus right now seems to be fixed odds betting machines, on account of it being possible to flush ?5K away in incredibly short order.

I do, on the other hand, dislike paid lootboxes.

mad825:

You know what's more concerning than loot boxes? Children gaining access to their parents financial details. You want all loot boxes banned for children? Then that's an easy thing to do, just order PEGI to classify loot boxes out of specific age groups.

Strazdas:

hopefully that will finally force the publisher from including those amoral and unethical practices in their games so an average gamer would not have to worry about the hassle or being psychologically assaulted and buying incomplete games in the future.

pfffffttt. When has that never been the case? Why not stop at loot boxes? What about those season passes? What about pre-orders? why not just DLCs in general, I do remember a time on the escapist when DLCs were the rave. How dare they replace expansions and how dare they sell us locked content on discs.

Anarchy! Anarchy! Smash the gaming industry.

Chidren gaining acess to parents financial details is the fault of parents, not the game developers though (unless the game silently remmeber CC data, which is sometimes an issue in mobile gaming but usually it a thing) All loot boxes should be banned FOR EVERYONE. they should not exist. You should never have to buy a cat in a bag. You cant order PEGI do anything btw. They are an "independant" institution and is used as shield by industry to claim they dont need regulation when they do.

And yes, in ideal world lootboxes would not be the only thing regulated. Pre-orders of digital product should not exist, period. On disk DLC already is illegal because all content on the disk you bought is legally yours to access and there is nothing a company can do if you crack it and access it however much you want. The only legal right they have is monopoly on sharing it called copyright.

If you think removing amoral adn unethical practices is smashing the gaming industry then you think the gaming industry has already failed. Me, on the other hand, think it can be saved.

How will this affect Kinder Surprise eggs?

CaitSeith:

I imagine WB, EA, Activision and Blizzard have more reason to sweat than Valve.

Why? I can't think of any WB, EA, Activision or Blizzard games which have lootboxes and where you can also sell the items obtained from those boxes to other people.

You know what company has shitloads of that? Valve.

Dirty Hipsters:

CaitSeith:

I imagine WB, EA, Activision and Blizzard have more reason to sweat than Valve.

Why? I can't think of any WB, EA, Activision or Blizzard games which have lootboxes and where you can also sell the items obtained from those boxes to other people.

You know what company has shitloads of that? Valve.

If there are political points to be won, I doubt the government would care about that little detail.

Dirty Hipsters:
Why? I can't think of any WB, EA, Activision or Blizzard games which have lootboxes and where you can also sell the items obtained from those boxes to other people.

You know what company has shitloads of that? Valve.

This was basically what I was thinking. Blizzard's Overwatch falls outside of this law. So do Shadow of War's ones. And so do the new CoD's ones I believe.

The problem with those kinds of lootboxes is that while you can't trade the items for real money or real items, the people (children?) buying them still treat those items from lootboxes as if they were real. Which is basically a loophole created from the law, as always, not keeping up with the changing times. So until the law is changed I don't doubt that those kinds of lootboxes will keep on being put in games, and publishers will keep on finding more exploitative ways to get you to buy them.

DrownedAmmet:

Video games will still be there, developers will just have to figure out how to sustain the rising costs of game development without preying on the gullible and vulnerable and children

Well said.

 

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