Friday, 25 May, 2018

Belgium declares loot boxes an illegal form of gambling

Enlarge  This innocuous-looking Overwatch loot box is now criminal in Belgium according to the country's gambling regulators Enlarge This innocuous-looking Overwatch loot box is now criminal in Belgium according to the country's gambling regulators
Guillermo Lane | 26 April, 2018, 07:02

An investigation by the Belgian Gaming Commission determined that games like Overwatch, CS: GO, and Federation Internationale de Football Association 18 violated Belgian gambling law with their implementation of loot boxes.

This is the first step towards getting rid of loot boxes. The regulator investigated ten video games that featured loot boxes and were available to Dutch players. It didn't name which games it was looking for at the report. However, this was mostly due to a technicality: the games deemed illegal were those in which players could sell items pulled from loot boxes for real-world money. A rep for Federation Internationale de Football Association 18 publisher Electronic Arts told GamesIndustry that it would "welcome the dialogue with minister Geens", but also reasserted the company's position that its loot boxes do not constitute gambling.

The Belgium government is threatening video game publishers with fines and jail time if they don't remove loot boxes from games like Federation Internationale de Football Association 18.

Just last week, we reported on the news that the Netherlands declared some loot boxes to be in violation of the Gambling Act. The underlying gambling foundation in these games is one that could cause "great damage to the people, family, and society" if it is not "properly arranged", according to Geens. The minister of justice initially raised his concerns a year ago, saying "mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is risky for the mental health of the child". 'We have already taken numerous measures to protect minors and adults against the influence of gambling advertising.

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Belgium added that when minors are involved, the aforementioned penalties can be doubled.

Peter Naessens, director of the Gaming Commission, had a similarly stern response.

Geens has stated that he wants to meet with video game companies to discuss the removal of loot boxes. Players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling are applied.

The decision follows a ruling by the Dutch Gaming Authority, which set a June 20, 2018 deadline for the publishers to make the necessary changes to their games to comply with Dutch law by applying for a gambling license, and removing "addiction-sensitive" elements from loot boxes. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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