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UK Govt resists pressure to ban highly addictive ‘loot boxes’

18 July 2022
Playing FIFA with a friend on a console

CARE was one of a number of organisations who said the UK Government should consider banning highly addictive Loot Boxes.

In its submission to the government two years ago, CARE cited evidence of a link between loot boxes and problem gambling.

Loot boxes allow players to spend money to unlock in-game rewards. This could be special characters, weapons, or costumes. As CARE argued in its submission, “since it is chance as to what items are included in any purchase, it is effectively gambling.”

The contents of boxes can also be gambled or in some cases, traded for cash.

In Belgium, they are already effectively banned and in the Netherlands, the regulator there has taken legal action over the presence of loot boxes in FIFA games.

Based on strong evidence linking loot boxes to problem gambling, CARE recommended that the purchase of loot boxes should be brought within the Gambling Act to ensure tougher and more effective regulation.

After a 22-month consultation, culture minister Nadine Dorries said the government would discuss tougher ‘industry-led’ protections with the £7bn gaming sector.

In its official response to the consultation, the government said that while there was evidence of an association between loot boxes and problem gambling, it could not be sure there was a causative link.

The culture minister also said children should not be able to purchase loot boxes without parental approval.

However, the response has drawn stinging criticism from some. One video games expert, Dr David Zendle, told the Guardian that by making industry bodies responsible for regulating loot boxes, DCMS was essentially ensuring that ‘foxes are the ones guarding the hen house.”

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While for some, gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes genuine devastation. Our vision is to see laws passed that will help protect vulnerable problem gamblers.

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