Loot Boxes Safe from Ban in the UK, for Now, But Changes Coming

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Loot Boxes Safe from Ban in the UK, for Now, But Changes Coming

In a deviation from their normal hardline stance, UK regulators have determined that there’s no need to ban video game loot boxes. The decision comes as several European countries move in the opposite direction and might, perhaps, offer a small glimpse at what’s coming in the UK gambling white paper.

Overwatch loot box
Overwatch loot box
A loot box from the Overwatch video game. The UK has determined that a complete ban on them is not necessary, but wants the video game industry to police them more. (Image: Blizzard Entertainment)

After putting the loot box segment under the microscope for the past 22 months, UK ministers and researchers determined there’s no need for the ban. The Guardian reports that Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Nadine Dorries made the announcement yesterday.

The review reportedly included breaking down 15 peer-reviewed studies. The conclusion was that there is a link between loot boxes and problem gambling. However, no one could conclusively ascertain that the video game prizes increased gambling risks or addiction.

Small Win for Video Games

The UK is still in the process of finalizing its new gambling white paper, which has been delayed once again. On many occasions, gambling operators have spoken out against over-reaching controls the government wants to implement because they have not been able to provide adequate input.

However, this isn’t the case with loot boxes. In the government’s response to the study, it stated that it “would be premature to take legislative action” without first trying to implement “industry-led measures” that would enhance protections.

We expect games companies and platforms to improve protections for children, young people and adults, and for tangible results to begin to be seen in the near future. If that does not happen, we will not hesitate to consider legislative options, if we deem it necessary to protect children, young people and adults,” said the DCMS.

As the video game industry has repeatedly pointed out, categorizing loot boxes as gambling doesn’t hold up. Gamers cannot exchange loot box rewards for cash. In addition, they can also receive the rewards by accumulating points – they don’t necessarily have to purchase the items.

The DCMS isn’t giving video game developers the all-clear for loot boxes, however. Instead, it still wants to see controls in place to prevent underage people from buying the rewards without parental consent.

In addition, the DCMS wants to work with the video game industry to come up with solutions. It is holding an ongoing working group with the industry. During the first quarter of next year, the agency will submit its first update.

Flack Over “Faulty” Decision

Courts and countries have determined that loot boxes are not inherently evil. Nevertheless, although there is a lack of irrefutable evidence that the rewards equate to gambling, some people still grasp conceptual conservatism with overwhelming zeal.

One is Dr. David Zendle, a University of York professor who has studied the video game industry for years. He acknowledged in an interview recently, “I am confident that there is a link, but correlation does not mean causation.”

Despite this, he blasted the DCMS for not doing more. He argued that “select committee inquiries” show that regulators cannot trust certain “bad actors” in the video game industry. As a result, all operators should suffer. However, if the actions of a few bad actors were enough to condemn an industry, all, including banking, utilities, food service and others, would have to come to an end.

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