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Public Opinion Study: 60% Believe Loot Boxes Should Be Classed As Gambling


Posted January 11, 2018 by

In both video gaming circles and political circles, loot boxes have been the cause of plenty of controversy over recent months. If you’ve never heard of them, they are virtual collections of sought-after items which can be bought in a video game with real-life money.

The prizes in the boxes are random, which means that you can never know what’s inside before you pay. As a result, some people argue that this classifies as gambling. 

As someone who has worked in the iGaming industry for years, I must admit I was struck by the similarities between loot boxes in video games and many features of the iGaming industry.

However, the big difference is that iGaming is regulated and loot boxes are not.

For many politicians, this is exactly the issue.

First, there were the Dutch and Belgian gambling regulators who originally called for loot boxes to regulated as gambling after the release of the recent video game Star Wars: Battlefront II.

This was followed by a very passionate speech by the Hawaiian state representative Chris Lee which was uploaded to YouTube.

The feeling from these politicians was that loot boxes do count as gambling because of how similar they are to casino games.

One loot box game in Star Wars: Battlefront II even features a slot machine.

However, the official stance of authorities in the UK and the US is that loot boxes don’t count as gambling because players are guaranteed a reward. Not all rewards are equal, but an award is a certainty.

Of course, the law can often change if public opinion believes that the law is inadequate.

So, in order to find out what the British public’s opinion was, I randomly surveyed over a thousand people to get their opinion on whether or not loot boxes should be regulated as gambling.

This survey was performed online in December 2017. Here were the key results:

  • Just over 60% (60.19%, to be exact) of all who responded to the survey believed that loot boxes should be regulated as gambling.
  • Just under 40% (39.81%, to be exact) of all who responded to the survey believed that boxes should not be regulated as gambling.

Is The Law Out of Touch With What People Want?

From the survey, it’s pretty clear that more people than not believe that loot boxes should be regulated as gambling. I believe this, too. 

In fact, before the loot boxes became a political issue, I had already assumed that they were regulated as gambling. The way they work sounds remarkably similar to a slot machine or roulette.

The argument that loot boxes don’t count as gambling because you always win something doesn’t add up. After all, the “something” is always virtual, which means its value as a prize is completely subjective. The prizes can only ever be used in the game itself.

If online casinos tried to make the argument that their players “always won something”, they would be laughed at. However, it would be entirely possible for them to exploit this loophole, too.

Double Standards or Nothing

Something is a gamble when there is a risk involved, and loot boxes involve risk.

When you pay your real money for that loot box, you could get a bunch of new playable characters for your game, or you could get a new hat colour.

To people who don’t play video games, this distinction might not sound like a risk at all. However, to video game players, it often is.

Of course, the best way to figure out whether loot boxes count as gambling would be to look at how the players are playing the game — and many have pointed out that the way people play the game looks a lot like gambling.

In some cases, it looks like gambling addiction.

The issue of addiction is the biggest problem.

The regulation behind the iGaming industry is designed to stop predatory practices. Casinos — both online and offline — are legally obliged to promote responsible gambling. When casinos break those rules, they are fined.

This is how the law is supposed to work.

For loot boxes, however, there is no regulation and there is no obligation.

According to the Gambling Commission, 12% of children aged 11-16 have gambled in the last week.

If that figure were adjusted to include loot boxes, I would guess that figure would be a lot higher.

We need to end the double standards.

If iGaming is regulated, loot boxes should be as well.