The responsible gambling charity has added to calls for the government to think again about leaving loot boxes out of its review of gambling legislation.
UK.- Earlier this month, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced that it would not be proposing legislation on loot boxes as part of the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act. However, a growing number of stakeholders are asking it to think again.
Last week, the children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, criticised the decision and called for loot boxes to be included within the definition of gambling. Now the industry-backed responsible gambling charity GambleAware has added its view, calling for measures to limit young people’s access to the products.
GambleAware said it had “long been concerned about loot boxes”, adding that they are “used by 40 per cent of children who play video games” and cause “the normalisation of gambling-like activities”.
It said: “We are therefore encouraged to see the government recognising these risks in the response to the call for evidence on loot boxes in video games. However, we hope that going forward, the new government may consider legislative action on their use, particularly with regards to limiting the access of children and young people to these products.
“Research has shown that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling, and therefore more adequate protection would help to prevent future gambling-related harms.
“We look forward to the publication of the ‘Video Games Research Framework’ later this year, which we hope will guide and inform legislation to protect children and young people from gambling-related harms through video games.”
Epic Risk Management, a consultancy specialising in gambling harm minimisation, also said it was disappointed that the government would not recommend legislation for the sale of loot boxes to minors.
While the UK review of gambling legislation appears to be on hold until a new prime minister is chosen, culture minister Nadine Dorries announced last week that a ban on loot boxes would not be part of the delayed gambling white paper.
She said the UK would not follow countries like Belgium, which banned loot boxes in 2018, and Spain, which plans to ban them for minors. Dorries said the government would instead pursue tougher “industry-led” protections.
She said that imposing restrictions or an all-out ban through legislation could result in “unintended consequences”. Instead, a working group comprising games companies, platforms and regulatory bodies will seek to develop industry-led protocols to protect players and reduce the risk of harm.
Expected measures will include parental controls and increased transparency. A Video Games Research Framework will seek to improve evidence on the positive and negative impacts of video games.