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Government to examine whether video game loot boxes encourage gambling

Written by: Emma Lunn
Ministers have launched a call for evidence on the impact of loot boxes and in-game purchases in video games.

Loot boxes are in-game containers bought with either virtual or real-world currency that award players with randomized virtual items.

Players can use these items to improve their playing experience or for cosmetic upgrades to their character’s appearance.

However, players don’t know which item they will get until after they have opened the loot box. It is this chance element that has raised concerns loot boxes could encourage gambling-like behaviour, particularly among young people.

The government says the call for evidence will help it understand people’s positive and negative experiences of loot boxes in video games.

Ministers are seeking the experiences of players and their parents or guardians. It will also look at data and research from video games companies, academia, and any other organisations with an interest in this issue.

The findings aim to give the government a clearer understanding of the size of the loot box and in-game purchases market in the UK, how it operates, and the impact of current protections such as parental controls and consumer regulations.

Loot boxes will also be considered alongside a review of the Gambling Act.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, called for the government to amend the Gambling Act to classify loot boxes as gambling in a report last year.

Caroline Dinenage, minister for digital and culture, says: “Our valued video game industry is making good progress developing safer environments for our children to play in, such as parental controls that can be set to schedule and limit playtime.

“But we’ve listened to parents’ concerns about loot boxes and it’s right that we fully examine and understand any evidence of the harm or links to problem gambling they can cause, so we can decide if action is needed.”

Video games are played by more than half of the population and the sector is a key part of the UK’s creative industries. It contributed £2.6bn to the economy in 2018, employed 27,000 people in 2019, and has grown more than 16 times faster than the wider UK economy since 2010.

The government is taking these steps to address issues highlighted by the DCMS select committee’s report on Immersive and Addictive Technologies and to protect audiences across the UK.

The call for evidence will be open until November 22 2020.

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