It sounds as if the UK is preparing for a bit of a crackdown on video game gambling of the third-party kind. According to a piece in The Guardian this week, the UK’s Gambling Commission believes it’s unable to prosecute gamblebox/lockbox/lootbox games themselves right now, at least until UK law is changed to explicitly recognize those forms of gambling as illegal gambling. But the Commission is turning its gaze on companies whose games encourage – or even just fail to sufficiently discourage – the item- and skin-trading economies that often turn into gambling outfits on third-party websites.
Gamers will remember that Valve specifically provoked the wrath of one state’s gambling authority over CS:GO, which several years back was a hotbed of third-party gambling activity because of its skin trading mechanics. And across the pond, the UK successfully prosecuted a group of FIFA players who used YouTube to run an illegal gambling enterprise through the game – and market it to kids.
Indeed, this latest statement from the UK Gambling Commission explicitly mentions “dialogue” with Valve over CS:GO and appears to include Valve among those companies that have hesitated to take proactive measures against these overtly illegal gambling endeavors, instead waiting for regulators to complain first. Interestingly, the Commission also says EA is one of the companies making efforts toward blocking lockbox gambling – that is, people using lockboxes as gambling currency. (EA runs FIFA).
But EA’s not entirely off the hook – and neither are lockboxes, as during the hearing before MPs, a member of the digital, media, culture and sport select committee linked these types of video game gambling together as a motivating factor for the companies involved:
“If businesses like EA don’t want to encourage gambling, why do they continue to use loot boxes? It seems to me that, bearing in mind children are using these games, that it’s creating an understanding of a process very close to gambling and that concerns me. It seems to me is that it makes money for EA.”