Lootboxes have been labelled ‘an item of concern’ by gambling regulators from 15 countries and one US state during a regulator conference, yesterday. Around the same time, a study sponsored by the Australian government has found that lootboxes are related to gambling habits.

During the annual meeting of the Gaming Regulators European Forum (Or GERF), signatories concluded that there is ‘a risk of blurring gaming and gambling’ due to the existence of unauthorised gambling sites (such as the numerous skin betting sites centred around CS: Go), and concern over official systems like lootboxes possibly constituting gambling under various nation’s laws. “Regulators identify in such emerging gaming products and services similar characteristics to those that led our respective legal frameworks and authorities to provide for the regulation of online gambling,” an official statement read. The various signatories have signed a Declaration, agreeing to work together to combat these sites and ensure any official gaming systems are properly classified and regulated. The signatories include the nations and territories of:

  • Åland Islands
  • Alderney
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus (Republic)
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

The United States’ Washington State Gambling Commission has also signed the agreement whilst in attendance at the conference.

Map of GERF’s member states and territories within Europe.

This news comes shortly after Belgium and the Netherlands both concluded that lootboxes constituted as gambling under their nation’s laws. Whilst other companies complied with authorities in removing problematic gaming systems from their titles in those nations, infamous gaming giant Electronic Arts has refused to comply with Belgium’s request regarding FIFA 18 and 19, and is now under criminal investigation. Whether this situation accelerated the issue to the top of GERF’s priorities or not is unknown.

Coincedentaly, the inquiry into lootboxes by the Australian Parliament has had some revelations. Whilst the conclusion of the inquiry has been extended to October, the inquiry-backed study, headed by Dr. David Zendle and Dr. Paul Cairns, has been put up on psychology pre-print repository, PsyArXiv for public access. Whilst the ESRB and (previously) Britain and France initially concluded that there were no links between lootboxes and gambling – with the ESRB going as far to likening lootboxes to packs of baseballcards – the study hopes it will have firmly established there is indeed a connection. The study looked at 1,545 respondants (64% Male, 31% Female, 4% Other, all over the age of 18) and used reported spending habits on lootboxes against the Problem Gambling Severity Index.

The study discovered that there is a clear link between problem gambling and amount spent on lootboxes – one stronger than other potential indicators, such as depression and drug use. The study was uncertain if lootboxes encouraged gambling habits itself, or merely allowed gaming companies to exploit gamers with existing habits, and encouraged more research. The study recommended that games with lootboxes be regulated appropriately, and made available only to those over the age of 18 within Australia.

With more and more regions coming down on them, it is likely that lootboxes, at least as we currently know them, have their days numbered.

 

Australian Parliament will end the inquiry on October 17th, officially.

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