In her speech in the House of Commons, Margot James, the UK Digital Minister, dismissed the idea that loot boxes constitute a form of gambling. While she does not believe regulation should be implemented against them at this time, she did stress that the research on the subject should continue.
Loot boxes have recently been the debating point in Parliament
It has been recently suggested that loot boxes—features in video games that contain random in-game items, such as weapons, costumes, abilities—should be regulated as they are as bad as any other form of gambling and also can also be paid for in real money.
“Someone is making a purchase, which is effectively like someone is spinning a roulette wheel,” argued the Chair of the Culture select committee, Damian Collins, and used the FIFA loot boxes to illustrate his example. “You don’t know what you are going to get, or how good it is going to be, but you are spending money and speculating to get better players for your team.”
Margot James claims loot boxes differ from gambling in too many ways
The Digital minister countered Collins’ statement by saying:
“I would contest the assumption that loot boxes are gambling and I don’t think that all the evidence that I’ve read from your committee’s hearings would support that assumption either.”
She went on to explain that loot boxes lacked the real money value that is the crucial point in gambling.
“Loot boxes are a means of people purchasing items, skins as they’re called, to enhance their gaming experience, not through an expectation of an additional financial reward and importantly they can’t be traded offline for money, so I think there are big differences and I don’t think really it is true to say that loot boxes are gambling,” she pointed out.
Loot boxes may still present a problem
Just because loot boxes cannot be considered gambling, however, does not mean they cannot pose a threat. Since loot boxes appear in video games that can be accessed by teenagers and children as young as 3 years old, it is important to gather more information about whether they can have negative impact on them and lead them to participating in gambling activity.
Nevertheless, Margot James does not believe any action should be taken at the present moment.
“My concern would be that, if research showed them to be a gateway to gambling, then I think that we would be very concerned and we would want to see action being taken,” she said. “I think there is some evidence emerging that loot boxes can be a problem but I don’t think we can yet say they are gambling. “