It’s been some time since the furor over lockboxes and international gambling laws came to light, so let’s review: Gambling authorities from the Netherlands and Belgium were doggedly pursuing lockbox practices in gaming, finding the scheme to be similar enough to gambling that it was illegal. This was followed by an order from the region for publishers to remove lockboxes or face fines; Blizzard and Valve played ball, but EA didn’t, which led to criminal investigations and ultimately enforcement of fines against EA for non-compliance – €250K a week to a total of €10M, or just over $11M USD.
That appeared to be the end of the matter save for an appeal from EA, and as of yesterday the Dutch Administrative Jurisdiction Division handed down a ruling that stated lockboxes are not gambling, that the Gambling Authority acted out of turn in imposing fines, and that the €10M in fines are to be revoked.
“In the opinion of the Administrative Jurisdiction Division, obtaining and opening the packs is not an isolated game. They are part of a game of skill and add an element of chance to the game. […] The fact that the packs are opened separately from the game or on a game assignment does not make it a separate game.”
Whether this will affect EA’s handling of Dutch FIFA players remains to be seen; readers will recall that the publisher had first made its lockboxes transparent and then stopped selling FIFA points in Belgium entirely.