Gambling regulators from 15 European countries and one U.S. state have signed a declaration to investigate “the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming.”
The declaration lists “(t)ackling unlicensed third-party websites offering illegal gambling linked to popular video games” and holding games providers accountable for ensuring “that features within games, such as loot boxes, do not constitute gambling under national laws” as priorities.
The 15 countries and one U.S. state that are questioning the legality of certain game developers’ practices of in-game gambling are: Austria, Czech Republic, France, Gibraltar, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and Washington state.
These signees will be looking into certain stimulating features of video games, specifically those with the potential to engage children in gambling practices. The most widely known of these implemented gambling features are “loot boxes,” which can be purchased by gamers and offer randomized rewards. Loot boxes have already been classified as gambling and thus been made illegal in the Netherlands and Belgium and are a topic of concern for some U.S. lawmakers.
Loot boxes are not the only kind of gambling in video games. There are a couple others that include “the use of gambling-themed content within video games available to children.”
“Skin betting” is one example of these practices. Skin betting is where third-party sites allow users to wager with real money or in-game items for a “chance” to get better items.
Social casino gambling is another popular gambling prospect for apps like “Big Fish Casino.” In these apps, users can spend money on virtual gambling chips if they don’t feel like waiting for the in-game currency to replenish. A U.S. District Court ruled “Big Fish Casino” instituted illegal gambling earlier this year, and there are a plethora of lawsuits against other similar games.
The conversation around gambling in gaming was brought to the forefront with Electronic Arts’ Nov. 17, 2017 release, “Star Wars Battlefront II.”
What should have been a massively overhauled and amazing experience (especially after the previous iteration in the franchise’s lackluster everything) was mired down in a thick soup of controversy and fan outrage.
Belgium was almost immediate with its response to the public outcry and made it illegal to have loot boxes (or any such mechanics where you can buy items with real-world money) in video games kids are bound to play. At the time, people were skeptical of the cracking down on questionable practices and whether more countries would follow suit. What was not expected to happen was a coalition of governments investigating EA and other developers for these practices. Now, EA and similar companies are under fire from countries and lawmakers alike.
Recently, EA has reportedly been ignoring the new laws that have been put in place by Belgium (or they’re at least hoping the laws will be loosely enforced). Even after government threats of prosecution if actions are not taken to remove gambling, EA has refused to change. Executives at EA have been digging in their heels, but now it appears that they may be digging their own graves if changes are not made soon.