The Belgian Gaming Commission has determined that randomized loot boxes in at least three games count as “games of chance,” and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country’s gaming legislation.
A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that “game of chance” definition: i.e., “there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game.” The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it “no longer technically forms a game of chance.”
Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an “emotional profit forecast” of randomized goods, where players “buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be.” The fact that these games don’t disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said.
The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country’s gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to €800,000 and five years in prison, which can be doubled if “minors are involved.” But Geens says he wants to start a “dialogue” with loot box providers to “see who should take responsibility where.”
“Paying loot boxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of skill,” Gaming Commission Director Peter Naessens added in a statement. “Players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling are applied.”
Belgium was one of the first European countries to publicly turn its attention to loot boxes following the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II. The country launched its investigation of the practice back in November, when Geens said he was seeking to ban the practice throughout Europe.
Belgium’s decision follows on a similar finding in the Netherlands, which specifically called out loot boxes in FIFA 18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League for illegal gambling activities. In the United States, legislators in Hawaii, Washington state, and the US Senate continue to look into loot box regulations, even as industry bodies like the Entertainment Software Rating Board downplay the need for such actions.
- Belgium Declares Loot Boxes “Gambling”, Will Push To Ban Them in Europe [UPDATE]
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- A new UK report does not find a link between youth gambling and loot boxes
- Blizzard kills loot boxes for Overwatch and HotS in Belgium