The UK gambling watchdog reported to Members of Parliament about the impossibility to regulate the purchase of in-game content like video game loot boxes and Fifa player packs. The reason is simple: there is no legitimate way to monetize everything that is inside them.
To be regulated by gambling laws, a prize should be either cash or with monetary value. Nevertheless, on the Internet, there are lots of unauthorised websites buying and selling in-game content or use it as virtual currency.
Brad Enright, the Gambling Commission program director, told that game publisher Electronic Arts, which is a seller of the football team management game Fifa, was leading “a constant battle” against illegal secondary markets. He also placed a greater focus on the growing demand for a secondary market.
Fifa player packs can be bought, but their content is revealed only after payment. The same concerns loot boxes, which include bonus content, usually represented in the form of weapons or character costumes.
Lots of parents have mentioned to the BBC that their children are spending vast amounts of money on in-game purchases. They have also characterized the process as a type of gambling because there are elements of risk and chance in the outcome. Thus, their children are then stirred into buying again and again to get the result they dream about.
Neil McCarthur, the Gambling Commission chief executive, made a report at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee and expressed his concerns about children spending their time with video games with elements of chance and expenditure. Nevertheless, he added that this entertainment could not be classified as gambling according to the current legislation. McCarthur compared it with other things which look like gambling that the laws tell they are not, for example, some prize competitions.
In 2018, loot boxes were prohibited in Belgium in view of the fact that they violated its gambling legislation.
Loot box prizes have no official transactional value. However, there are lots of third-party websites which stimulate people to gamble the virtual content they get in games (weapons, character clothes, etc.) on slot machines or casino games, providing them with the chance to win real money exactly as at most of online casinos in United Kingdom consider the case of StarSpins Casino. This is called skin betting.
As the Gambling Commission program director explained later, “we have said [to the industry of video games], that it’s not enough to say we don’t want this happening.” He also emphasized that the terms and conditions of almost all the games ban it.
According to Brad Enright, the video game which generates the biggest complaints about skin betting is Counterstrike: Global Offensive, produced by Valve, the US game provider. He also added that the Gambling Commission could not control and monitor the Internet in the name of the video games industry. And it is Valve which should do more on the USA gambling market.
The day before Rockstar Games had to launch a digital casino inside the video game Grand Theft Auto V, the hearing took place.
What player mechanics will be behind the Diamond Resort casino is now unclear. On their website, there is information about in-game chips which will be required for playing. But it is a riddle whether they will be acquired through gameplay or purchase, or both.
These addictive and immersive technologies are currently examined by the DCMS Select Committee.