International regulators co-sign declaration to investigate lockboxes and skin gambling

    
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If you thought Belgium and The Netherlands were going to keep on standing alone in the fight against lootboxes, you were very much mistaken, as the pile of new lockbox stories flooding my RSS feeds in the last few days can attest.

At the top of the list is the resolution issued by 16 member nations of the 2018 Gambling Regulators European Forum. The international group, which does include a representative from the US, signed a declaration covering two topics of note: concerns over third-party game-related betting and skin-gambling websites, and the potential for lootbox models to bleed over into legitimate gambling according to each nation’s laws. As Eurogamer notes, it’s chiefly a declaration of intent to investigate and “signals a major shift in the loot box regulation debate.”

Moreover, Finland has apparently joined in as well; according to the Finnish website Helsingen Sanomat, Finnish police are investigating at least one complaint relating to lootboxes as its Lottery Administration has issued a ruling finding that lockboxes do indeed “fall within the scope of the lottery law,” specifically because purchasers do not know what’s in the lootboxes beforehand, can often be exchanged for money, and “the opening of a lootbox can be made in whole or in part by paying for a non-gaming game within the game’s internal currency.” (With a little help from Google Translate there.) While it looks like the country isn’t threatening to expel games with lootboxes, the lottery agency has recommended a revamp of the law to better protect consumers and provide gaming companies the proper operational licenses.

This past weekend, we covered a paper from a group of UK academics that found a startling relationship between lockbox purchasing and real-world problem gambling. Its findings have apparently been bolstered by the findings of a second survey, this one of over 7000 gamers, by the Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee using the same authors.

Just in the last few weeks, Blizzard halted the sale of lockboxes in Overwatch for players in Belgium, while the country reportedly began an investigation into EA’s seeming refusal to comply with its mandate in regard to lockboxes in FIFA.

Source: Declaration via Eurogamer. Cheers, Kinya and Schmidt!
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Arktouros

All these wonderfully useless research papers based on surveys. When’s someone going to do an actual study into the issue? The big thing I see all these papers miss is that I don’t know a single person who finds lock boxes an enjoyable experience. Any big spenders, myself included, is generally of the attitude of, “Fuck man, I hate that I have do these but it’s the only option I have to get X item.” That isn’t the sign of someone who has gambling addiction but rather of someone who’s deciding to buy into a shitty business tactic.

My predictions remain that not much over all will really change. The Skin betting/wagering thing is pretty much going to end up a done thing. There’s no way that will end up surviving and honestly without that being a factor I don’t think anyone would have even bothered to look into this topic. However after eliminating the ability to trade items I don’t think much more beyond that will happen. There’s too many variations of lockboxes to account for really. For example can you say that ESO lockboxes are gambling when you can convert anything into a secondary currency (gems) and directly buy what you want? There’s so many ways around legislation.

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Robert Mann

Yep, gambling addiction for people who don’t want to leave the house is a hot topic. See the various efforts against online casinos and law avoidance.

Where some people may enjoy it reasonable, it is just like everything else in such setups. The idea is to make money off people hoping for really good luck.

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Dean Greenhoe

When a developer leans on lock boxes to raise case you know they are more interested in money than a players quality experience. Gambling is an addiction and those who prey on the weak is just wrong.

So I support looking into lockboxs and its possible detrimental effect on players.

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Sunken Visions

Just another moral conundrum that humanity will fail to solve. Guns are bad, but violence sells! Nudity is bad, but sex sells! Drugs are bad, but cigarettes sell! Gambling is bad, but lootboxes sell!

Disgusting.

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Zora

They agreed to talk, which is what politicians adore to do.

After the babbling is done each country has differing laws and regulations about gambling and european countries specifically have shown to routinely fail in promoting a unified front on… just about anything, even when it’s about way more critical and controversial subjects of universal interest.

The world coming together as a single thing to end the plague of lockboxes? That would make a fine comedy flick for the whole family, here’s my ten bucks for a front row seat… take my money! :P

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Peregrine Falcon

They agreed to talk, which is what politicians adore to do.

History shows that the alternative to politicians talking about things is often people shooting at other people because of disagreements about those things. That being said, isn’t politicians talking about things the better option?

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J

I knew EA was screwed the moment they bucked one countries rules. Now prepare to get regulated by many more nations.

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Nordavind

I’d dig up my comment pointing out that what one EU member does is usually the start of a rolling snowball that soon grows to the scope of the entire EU/EEA (it was a response to those saying “hah, what can that tiny country’s ban do?”, but I’ll just say: told you so.

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Schmidt.Capela

Tiny countries are usually the first movers because it’s easier for them to change course.

Besides, as someone else had pointed, much of the political power in Europe is exerted from Belgium (the de-facto capital of the EU is Brussels, the Belgium capital) and the Netherlands is quite important when it comes to legal innovation, so the two countries that started with effective enforcement of lootbox regulations in Europe punch well above their weight when it comes to political and legal influence.

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Marvin Marshall

I applaud the movement towards removing or strictly limiting these gambling tactics in games. I have never been a fan of gamble boxes or other variations of such, which cost real world currency, being in games.

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Armsbend

Know that Europe is very much into protectionism for businesses they have no ability to compete in. I expect this to heat up in the technologically deficient EU for quite some time.

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BalsBigBrother

Just in the last few weeks, Blizzard pulled lockboxes from Overwatch for players in Belgium

That statement isn’t quite true they pulled the ability for Belgium players to buy lockboxes in Overwatch. They can still earn them while playing the game and levelling up so lockboxes are still available to Belgium players.

The article it links to does state that but I think it is important to be clear with such statements.

There is no denying the potential for legislation is slowly starting to build some momentum around the world and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out for good or ill as the case may be.