26 May

Video game loot boxes declared illegal in Belgium

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Following the recent Star Wars Battlefront 11 debacle that has several European gaming commissions increasingly raise critical eyes on loot boxes; things are even beginning to get a tad rougher for the publishers. Well, it seems like things came to a head when the Gaming Authority in the Netherlands sometimes last year declared loot boxes in some games as gambling and hence, illegal.

According to the government agency, the loot boxes in about four games were deemed as a game of chance. They said this was informed as a result of their investigation in which they believed some items in these games can be transferred and can also be attributed a market value. It lacks the complexity of real online betting, primarily due to the absence of sign-up offers like the Coral bonus offer; however, it is still an efficient way of gambling. As if that’s not enough, the Belgian gaming commission just last month declared loot boxes illegal.

The Belgium Gaming Commission at the conclusion of their investigation reported that games including the Overwatch, Fifa 18, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive violates the gaming regulations of the country. However, it’s a bit surprising to see Stars Wars: Battlefront 11 – remember they’re actually the cause of the investigation in the first place – exonerated.

We learned this was because EA, the game publisher removed microtransactions from the game, shortly before it was released. According to the Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, the publishers of those games blacklisted risks getting fined 800,000 euros or a five years prison sentence if they don’t remove the offending loot boxes.

And the penalty could be doubled if children are involved; in their argument for the ban Koen Geens said, “It is children who often come in contact with such systems, and we cannot allow that.”

He went on to say “given the importance of the protection of vulnerable players and minors, this was very worrying.” Although Geens seemed poised to let the heavy hammer fall on defaulting publishers, he is willing also to get to the talking tables with these video game publishers to iron out who takes responsibility for what. A statement from the EA spokesperson, reads – “We welcome the talks with Geens as we disagree that our games can be considered as a form of gambling.”

No matter which way the talks go, one thing is clear Koen Geens means business at least from his statement where he reiterated the efforts that have gone in protecting minors and adults against the influence of gambling advertising. “That is why,” he said, “we must also ensure that children and adults are not inundated with a game of chance when they are seeking to enjoy a video game.”

However, the US authorities and the UK Gambling Commission took a different stance with the loot box scandal; they declared games with loot crates are not gambling.  

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