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Belgium's Gambling Commission rules against loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and CS:GO

Just a week after the Netherlands Gaming Authority declared that some videogame loot boxes are in violation of Dutch gambling laws, Belgium's Gaming Commission has come to the same conclusion. The commission looked at four popular videogames—Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—and found that three of them contain loot boxes that contravene the country's gambling regulations. 

"Mixing [video] games and gaming [gambling], especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health. We have already taken numerous measures to protect both minors and adults against the influence of, among other things, gambling advertising," Minister of Justice Koen Geens said in the Google-translated report. "That is why we must also ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a videogame. "   

Geens actually spurred the investigation into loot boxes in November 2017, following the uproar over loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Ironically, Battlefront 2 is the one game that the Gambling Commission said isn't breaking Belgian law, thanks to changes EA made to the game shortly after it was released. 

The report notes that the PEGI rating system is applied to games based on their content, but does not take into account gambling-related elements. At the same time, "developers are increasingly using systems to get players to [spend] real money once they have purchased a game," in ways that range from using celebrities to promote loot boxes to keeping the odds of winning hidden. 

With the report complete, the Gambling Commission declared that the violating loot boxes must be removed. "If that does not happen, the operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to €800,000," it warned. "When minors are involved, those punishments can be doubled." 

A deadline for their change or removal hasn't been set, but Geens said that he would hold interviews with game developers in the future. A rep for FIFA 18 publisher Electronic Arts told GamesIndustry that it would "welcome the dialogue with minister Geens," but also reasserted the company's position that its loot boxes do not constitute gambling. 

"We strongly believe that our games are developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world, and take these responsibilities very seriously," the rep said. "We care deeply that our players are having a fun and fair experience in all of our games, and take great care to ensure each game is marketed responsibly, including in compliance with regional ratings standards."