Purchasing loot boxes in video games is equivalent to gambling, according to a House of Lords committee, which recommends that the controversial products be regulated under the Gambling Act.
Loot boxes can be purchased in many games – including those popular with younger players such as FIFA – and offer randomised rewards, some of which would be worth far more than the cost of the purchase itself.
The way the purchases offer mystery in-game rewards to players means they should be classified as gambling, according to a new report by the House of Lords Gambling Committee.
The committee called for the government to “act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation”.
Globally, the market for loot boxes in games is estimated to be worth £20bn, with the UK market valued at £700m.
In the case of football game FIFA, made by Electronic Arts and one of the UK’s top-selling game franchises, they are trading card-style packets that can be bought with either real money or a digital currency earned by playing.
But some games have removed them after intervention from governments – Fortnite got rid of its version of loot boxes last year after Belgium and the Netherlands declared them to be illegal gambling.
Also last year, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) published a report revealing that some young people felt addicted to purchasing the items.
The RSPH report found that a majority of young people see both purchasing a loot box (58%) and taking part in skin betting (60%) as forms of highly addictive gambling.
Children are spending hundreds of pounds “chasing their losses” on money spent on loot boxes, according to the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield.
And back in October, MPs also called for them to be banned.
Console makers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo recently pledged to force game publishers to disclose the likelihood of particular items being discovered in loot boxes.
However, currently, video game packaging only sports an icon warning of the potential for extra purchases, which do not always involve an element of chance.
Ms Longfield, who talked to 29 gamers aged 10 to 16, said last year: “Children have told us they worry they are gambling when they buy loot boxes, and it’s clear some children are spending hundreds of pounds chasing their losses.
“I want the government to classify loot boxes in games like FIFA as a form of gambling. A maximum daily spend limit for children would also be reassuring for parents and children themselves.
“With 93% of children in the UK playing video games, it is vital that the enjoyment they get comes with tighter rules that protect them from straying into gambling.”