UK House Of Lords Call For Regulation Of Loot Boxes Immediately
The House of Lords has urged the UK government to immediately “bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation.” The House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry today warns that more needs to be done to prevent gambling-related harm. The liberalisation of gambling by the Gambling Act 2005, the universal adoption of smart phones, and the exploitation of soft-touch regulation by gambling operators has created a perfect storm of addictive 24/7 gambling. The Committee expects the Government and the regulator to make changes now. Many of the report’s recommendations do not need legislation, and all of them are urgent if consumers are to be protected and lives saved.
In the report and a statement accompanying it the House of Lords said:
“If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling…The government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation.”
“It is crucial that any future developments in gambling, video gaming or other products that may contain gambling-like elements, which would not currently fall within the definition of gambling, should be brought within the remit of the Gambling Act as they appear. It is too late to regulate a product as gambling, when it has already caused harm to children and young people. Neither the Government nor the Gambling Commission can afford to wait years before bringing new ‘gambling-like’ products within the remit of the Act,”
“The recommendation above will deal with the immediate issue of loot boxes, but gambling operators or gaming companies may develop new products which blur the distinction between video gaming and gambling. If these products cannot be brought within the legislative definition of a ‘game of chance’, they will not be regulated as gambling. Children and young people should be protected from all gambling and gambling-like products, not merely those that can be defined as a ‘game of chance’. To ensure that all future gambling-like products are regulated as gambling, Ministers must have a power analogous to section 6(6) of the Act to specify that any activity which has the characteristics of gambling, even if not similar to a game of chance, should be brought within the purview of the Act.”
This section of the committee’s report concludes:
“We recommend that Ministers should make regulations under section 6(6) of the Gambling Act 2005 specifying that loot boxes and any other similar games are games of chance, without waiting for the government’s wider review of the Gambling Act.”
A committee for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport conducted an extensive enquiry into addictive and immersive technologies last year, and concluded that paid loot boxes should be regulated under the UK’s gambling laws.
Nine months later, the government’s response has been to propose a call for evidence that loot boxes constitute gambling, which will be considered around a wider review of the Gambling Act.
UK trade body UKIE has released a statement, emphasising that the UK games industry “has been working hard to address the concerns raised” by the report. This includes the launch of its own Get Smart About PLAY campaign earlier this year, which aims to raise awareness of the family controls available to limit or stop spending in-games.
This comes in the wake of the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 2019 select committee into Immersive and Addictive Technologies, which culminated in a report saying that loot boxes should be brought under gambling legislation. DCMS is currently calling for evidence that the business model should be classified as such.