Belgium has joined the Netherlands in declaring that loot boxes in video games do indeed fall under the definition of gambling under their law.
This decision comes after the Belgium Gaming Commission investigated certain popular games in an effort to determine what elements of gambling were involved. These games included Overwatch, FIFA 18, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, snd Star Wars Battlefront 2. After examining how the content of loot boxes are determined and their value, only Battlefront was found to escape the definition of gambling – and only because of EA’s recent overhaul of the loot box mechanics.
The key concerns of the Belgian Gaming Commission were:
- the uncertainty of the contents of the boxes
- the idea that the boxes might contain an in-game advantage – which is not always true
- the ability or encouragement to use real currency to purchase boxes
- the many ways of converting real currency into in-game currency
- the advertisement of loot boxes by internet celebrities
The investigation came at the request of the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Greens, who was particularly concerned with the idea that minors could be exposed to unregulated gambling. He said of the ruling, “We must ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game. ” The director of the Gaming Commotion Peter Naessens also made his view quite clear when he said “Paying loot boxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of skill.”
Unlike the Netherlands ruling – which stated that games must remove any gambling features by June of this year or face a fine and possible jail time – Belgium has not set a deadline for the compliance of their ruling yet.
As more and more countries add legislation against loot boxes, it will be interesting to see how publishers react. Will they modify games to suit each country’s law? Will they finally ditch the loot box mechanic for good? Or will they just stop releasing games in countries with tight gambling laws? As more countries weigh in on this decision it will be interesting to see how our own government will continue to handle the issue.