Are Loot Boxes Gambling?

Remember back in the 2000s when the big problem with video games was that they were too “violent”?

Well, now they’re a contributing factor to gambling. Go figure.

Let’s talk about microtransactions. I’ve already gone over how much they suck in games like Battlefront, and it kind of blew me away when EA did the unthinkable and actually got rid of them from Battlefront 2 a day before it launched, but this pales in comparison to what’s been happening in recently. Specifically, Belgium and Hawaii (weird combination, I know) began to complain about the concept of microtransactions and loot boxes, claiming that buying into this feature in a game should be considered as gambling.

a Star Wars themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money” is what Hawaii is saying. They’ve even gone as far as looking into legislation to either prevent games with this feature from being sold to young children or prevent this feature from being in any future games. On the Belgium side of things it’s more or less the same, “the combination of money and addicting is gambling”. Last week, Belgium announced that they were launching an ‘investigation’ into whether loot boxes in games are to be considered gambling, saying the combination of money and the mystery of what you’re going to get from these loot boxes technically do make buying them gambling. They haven’t come to a conclusion on the matter, but it seems like they may come to the same conclusion Hawaii has considering even the Justice Minister of Belgium is calling for the death of the feature.

So basically, two governments in the world anyone barely think about at all are complaining about a feature included in popular video games. What does it mean?

In my opinion, this is silly. I’m not even sure why this is suddenly an issue, did the Battlefront issue really bleed that much? Has this been building for a while? Why are they so aggressive toward it? It really makes little to no sense to me why this would be as big an issue as it is. And I want to address the statements made by both Belgium and Hawaii about the concept of loot boxes.


a Star Wars themed online casino“, Really? Let’s talk about what gambling is. It’s putting money on a random chance in order to win a bigger sum or something with more monetary value. Of course, you’re not getting money in exchange for your money in Battlefront, you’re getting star cards, you’re getting gear, you’re getting items in the game that you could get otherwise by just playing the game and not spending any money. On top of that, these items don’t really have any monetary value. At least, EA isn’t making a price list and selling these items individually, so who’s to say that they have any value at all? In most cases, these items are just for fun, cosmetic or performance purpose. The only way this argument is valid is in the case of Valve and the Steam Market where in games like TF2 or CS: GO you can buy loot crates, buy keys to open them, get random items, and then sell them for money. And even then it’s not money, it’s just Steam credit that you can spend on games (though if my Steam Market obsessed friend has taught me anything, it’s that there are definitely ways to trade skins for cash, however sketchy it may be).

But let me take a step back and say, I do see where they’re coming from. It’s obvious that people have spent thousands of dollars on stupid microtransactions for Candy Crush and Farmville, and kids have gone behind their parent’s back and maxed out their credit cards. And that’s actually the point that the UK Gambling Commission is trying to make regarding this matter. They put out a blog post yesterday where they talked about while they themselves don’t consider loot boxes as gambling, they still consider them a threat to children in that it can be addictive to spend money on them.

“many parents are not interested in whether an activity meets a legal definition of ‘gambling’. Their main concern is whether there is a product out there that could present a risk to their children. We are concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred. Where it does meet the definition of gambling it is our job to ensure that children are protected and we have lots of rules in place, like age verification requirements, to do that.”

So what’s the right answer here? Well, I can’t tell you that, because there is no right answer in this issue. There are only the opinions of every other government in the world. Me, personally, I don’t think it’s that big of an issue. You might think different, but that’s the joy of having free will in this world. Tell me about it in the comments.

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