The ongoing saga over controversial loot box systems in video games continues with yet another country considering an official investigation into the practice to see if it can be linked to, or defined legally as a form of gambling. In recent weeks, Belgium and France have had government representatives announce that their gambling regulators were going to look into the issue. Belgium’s laws note that “games of chance where one party ends up gaining an advantage over the other” would be something applicable to games which have pay-to-win mechanic as well. You might have heard the news about the Hawaii state representative calling the practice “a trap” for younger players.
Norway is now the latest country in the EU to throw their hat into the ring, and may soon announce an investigation into the issue.
In a statement to local news channel VTM last week, Belgium’s Justice Minister Koen Geens recently announced that the government is now looking into regulations to identify loot boxes as a form of gambling. “Mixing gambling with gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the child’s mental health,” said Geens in an interview about the issue. The minister promised to not only address the issue locally but to also take it to the European Union to put an end to the practice across Europe.
That was the impetus for Norway’s leading liberal political party, Venstre, to appeal to the Norwegian government to classify loot boxes as gambling. A member of the party, Abid Raja, wrote to Norway’s Justice Minister Per-Willy Amundsen (stop sniggering at the back, you two) to ask if the minister knew about the controversy, and was aware of the “challenges” of loot boxes and in-game currency. Raja’s letter asks the minister to consider looking into the issue and bring it before the European parliament to adjust policy to cover video games in their gambling regulations.
Depending on how this goes, it may grow to include an investigation into in-game currency. In the past, several high-profile video games had in-game items with real worth in the physical world, notably Second Life and Eve Online. Should European regulations include in-game currency in the context of their gambling regulations (as in, it’s taxable, especially if you somehow earn more money from it and can transfer that wealth out of the system), then the game industry is in for a tough time meeting the new regulations.