UK Gambling Commission says (again) that loot boxes aren't gambling

(Image credit: Blizzard)

In November 2018, the UK Gambling Commission published a report saying that 30 percent of the 2,865 children who took part in a poll had opened at least one loot box in a videogame. It specifically did not draw a line between loot boxes and gambling, however, although that point was muddied by the fact that the loot box issue was addressed in a report about a rise in child gambling.

As reported by the BBC, Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur reiterated that position while speaking to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee, saying that while there are "significant concerns" about children playing games that offer loot boxes, loot boxes themselves do not qualify as a form of gambling under current laws.

"There are other examples of things that look and feel like gambling that legislation tells you are not—[such as] some prize competitions but because they have free play or free entry they are not gambling... but they are a lot like a lottery," McArthur said.

The reason for the exemption is that there are no official channels for monetizing loot box rewards: In order to qualify as gambling, prizes offered must either be money, or have monetary value.

Gambling Commission program director Brad Enright acknowledged that EA faces "a constant battle" against secondary markets that do enable monetization of loot box rewards, but because those markets are not officially sanctioned, they don't count toward the gambling definition.

Enright said that the Gambling Commission has called on the videogame industry as a whole to crack down on third-party markets, but ultimately it's not up to the commission to clean up the game industry's mess: Noting that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the top source of complaints about skin-betting, he said, "We think Valve in the US should do more."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.