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UK Gambling Commission announces its stance on loot boxes

By Caroline Watson
Late last week, the UK Gambling Commission posted a statement regarding its stance on the highly controversial matter of loot boxes.

In the past few weeks, many country regulators have posted opinions on the in-game play feature, and whether it constitutes a form of gambling.

The UK regulator placed a great deal of emphasis on the fact that gambling hinges on the monetary value, and further explained that loot boxes cannot be considered as a form of gambling as long as the items acquired via loot boxes “cannot be cashed out” by players.

The UK Gambling Commission’s Executive Director, Tim Miller stated: “A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired ‘via a game of chance’ can be considered money or money’s worth. In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in.”

He further adds that “many parents are not interested in whether an activity meets a legal definition of ‘gambling’. Their main concern is whether there is a product out there that could present a risk to their children.”

Whilst the commission accepts the practice is somewhat dubious, its hands are tied by the UK Government. He adds: “The law sets a line between what is and is not gambling. As the regulator we patrol that line and where an activity crosses it and presents a risk to people, especially children, we have and will take robust action.”

Whilst the UKGC are unable to take further action at present, a number of other jurisdictions such as Australia, Belgium and Hawaii are pushing to rule the divisive in-game feature as unlawful.
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