New Zealand declares lootboxes not gambling under the law

    
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WHERE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW?!

Are lootboxes gambling? It seems like such a simple question, but it really isn’t simple from a legal or ethical standpoint, and the answer has a pretty big impact. According to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, following reviews, lootboxes do not meet the legal requirements of gambling, thus freeing them from the scrutiny of agencies designed to look more closely into gambling-related issues.

In short, the argument hinges upon the fact that lootbox items cannot be exchanged for cash and thus do not qualify as gambling under the law. That having been said, it’s not an ironclad ruling which cannot be changed; indeed, it’s something likely to be debated extensively as more and more lawmakers turn a critical eye toward the practice. For the moment, though, New Zealand considers them perfectly acceptable and has picked a side in the ongoing battle.

Source: Gamasutra
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Mikka Hansen

everything can be exchanged for cash. for instance, the rulings of new zealand legislators, as exemplarized here. bet some big fat envelopes traded hands for this decision

Ernost
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Ernost

lootbox items cannot be exchanged for cash

Lol what? I’m guessing their investigation was not very thorough then. Every single MMO I have played has people willing to sell items or even whole accounts on that certain black market site.

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zeko_rena

I live in such a dumb country.

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Jack Pipsam

At least it’s pretty.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Wow, a thing we couldn’t imagine existing a decade ago doesn’t meet a legal definition created the better part of a century ago. Shocking.

fallwind
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fallwind

hidden prize vending machines are decades old, and things like baseball cards have been around for nearly 100 years now.

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Utakata

Snake eyes! I always thought that was an insult to snakes though. :(

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Bryan Correll

Don’t read this as too much of a victory for loot boxes. The DIA is not a legislative body and can only interpret the law as it is written. Gambling commissions in most countries have either taken this position or been silent on the issue. Parliament could still make changes to gambling laws so that loot boxes would be considered gambling.

PS I am not an expert on NZ law, so any Kiwis (or international law experts) out there feel free to correct me.

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Anstalt

I’m surprised that this is news.

We’ve known from the start that there is a difference between gambling and regulated gambling. The definitions and laws are pretty clear country to country – paid-for-lootboxes are gambling, but not regulated gambling due to the reward not being cash.

So why are we still focusing on determining whether lockboxes are already regulated? We already know they aren’t!

The debate is supposed to be about should we regulate lootboxes and how we regulate, not about whether we already do.

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A Dad Supreme

The debate is supposed to be about should we regulate lootboxes and how we regulate, not about whether we already do.

Totally agree.

Something else that should be thrown into that discussion is whether or not all gamers/countries should be pressured into adopting some kind of regulation just because a few others might have a problem with something.

It reminds me of how the U.S. has a problem with marijuana or sex, regulates it heavily (illegal) and then tries to pressure other countries that choose to let it’s citizens determine the course of responsibility for themselves.

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Zora

It reminds me of how the U.S. has a problem with marijuana or sex, regulates it heavily (illegal) and then tries to pressure other countries that choose to let it’s citizens determine the course of responsibility for themselves.

Gambling already is regulated differently in different countries, so even if the entire planet agreed lootboxes are gambling companies would still be able to get away with it in different ways in each country.

I understand about minors, but how would you even protect adults prone to addictions where such a condition is not recognized or regulated?

In my country for example, people who declare themselves gambling addicts are allowed to not pay their debts… unless it’s the state you owe the money to… which is interesting an interpretation of a clinical condition, I’d say :P

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Sally Bowls

It reminds me of how the U.S. has a problem with marijuana or sex, regulates it heavily (illegal) and then tries to pressure other countries that choose to let it’s citizens determine the course of responsibility for themselves.

I live in a state where prostitution, pot and gambling are legal and a state income tax and annual legislature is not. E.g., gambling is not a really legislated much by the US. 50 states have 50 different sets of laws regarding gambling.

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Zora

So why are we still focusing on determining whether lockboxes are already regulated? We already know they aren’t!

Because if legislators can liquidate an issue by incorporating it into an existing legal framework rather than having to examine it and regulate it by scratch, it means they can look good without having to actually work hard for their humble salaries :P

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A Dad Supreme

Aw, I was expecting a “One Lootbox to Rule Them All” motif. :(

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rafael12104

A few thoughts before my morning coffee, (I get a little testy before my first cup.)

First, hardly an original response. The English commission said almost the same thing, and so have others who argue it is not gambling. Makes me wonder if cut and paste is the way laws made.

Second, the real fight isn’t with the “commission” it is with the laws which give commissions their mandate and power. Have to change the laws kiddies. That was always going to be the way of it.

Third it doesn’t matter that “legally” it is not defined as gambling. Lootboxes have the same habit forming and nefarious effect. And it may even be more insidious in that it caters directly to children and young adults. So, while it may matter to that commission, it should not matter to us how it is defined.

We keep pushing, and bitching until either the industry finds an acceptable way to regulate these gambling boxes or politicians see the low hanging fruit and propose new legislation to cut out the cancer.

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A Dad Supreme

Third it doesn’t matter that “legally” it is not defined as gambling. Lootboxes have the same habit forming and nefarious effect.

I don’t know about this argument. Everything potentially has the same “habit forming and nerarious effect” to some people.

I know plenty of coffee drinkers who are addicted, yet there are no warning labels on coffee for that as a law because most people can drink a cup and put the cup down afterwards.

Not sure we should make laws because a few people spend too much money on boxes (although I don’t want boxes in my game at all), when most players can simply ignore them or enjoy them in moderation without a “warning”.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Habit forming items/activities aren’t regulated based on whether or not they might be addictive, but on the possible harmful results of addiction. It’s highly unlikely that a person will steal thousands of dollars or physically hurt a stranger on the street to cover a caffeine addiction; but a drug or gambling habit is an entirely different story.

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rafael12104

Caffeine, yeah it has it bad points, but rarely will it drain your entire bank account on the promise of another win.

Personal responsibility. That is my thing, but people need a chance to exercise that right and a chance to teach and protect their kids from predatory loot boxes.

Hey, the industry and self regulate and contain this. But, I doubt that they will

cryinglightning39
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cryinglightning39

But they can be sold as cash. You can turn around and sell them for real money on sites like player auctions.com. These politicians aren’t doing their due diligence because they don’t care about things like this.

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Bryan Correll

Using those sites is almost always against a game’s terms of service.

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race sweet

And gashapon parlors that hand out tiny novelty gold bars as prizes that can be conveniently sold at the store next door get closed down even if they aren’t directly handing out the cash prize. Setting up a random system where players can sell good drops for cash conspicuously on this other website sounds like the same form of incentive’s to me.

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Bryan Correll

I’m not familiar with that practice, but gold is fungible and the parlor giving it out can not even theoretically control what happens to it once it leaves the parlor. With virtual items the game company can, and should when aware of it, take action such as banning accounts.
I’m not defending the use of auction sites, in fact quite the opposite. But virtual items are not the same as physical items legally.