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Children’s Commissioner Wants Loot Boxes Classified as Gambling

by Glenn Baird - October 23, 2019

The debate over loot boxes has been reignited again this week as the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, calls for more stringent legislation to help protect young people from perceived dangers that exist in certain online games.

Are loot boxes a form of gambling? The UK Gambling Commission says they are not but Anne Longfield believes the regulators have got this one wrong and wants to see loot boxes re-classified as gambling.

If this did happen, then young people would have to have their access to loot boxes denied, either that or the very nature of loot boxes would have to change significantly.

She has also called for a maximum spending limit to be introduced into all in-game purchases.

In a report titled, “Gaming the System”, the Commissioner wrote about the average time that young people spend gaming and the addictive nature of some games before moving on to discuss the loot boxes as a form of gambling:

“Children have told us they worry they are gambling when they buy loot boxes, and it’s clear some children are spending hundreds of pounds chasing their losses,” said Longfield. “I want the government to classify loot boxes in games like Fifa as a form of gambling. A maximum daily spend limit for children would also be reassuring for parents and children themselves.”

Longfield also wants to see tighter restrictions placed on the age verification process for purchasing games online, bringing the same demand for proof of age that exists in the physical world.

A government spokesperson has responded by saying that:

“Video games can be enjoyed by children safely as part of a healthy lifestyle and we encourage parents to use built-in controls to set spending and time limits.

“But we are clear children must always be protected from harm and we will carefully consider the concerns raised in this report in relation to excessive or gambling-like behaviour.”

The report also included positive reports on the ways in which online gaming can bring young people together, something that was noted by UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), who went on to say that:

“We recognise the need to educate players, parents and carers about safe and sensible play habits and for the industry to take an appropriate role in doing so.”

“The industry continues to promote healthy and balanced playing practices through our consumer information site askaboutgames.com and via lesson plans available for schools through Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse initiative.”