UK won’t ban loot boxes from video games despite problem gambling findings | Gambling

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Loot boxes in video games will not be banned in the UK, despite a government consultation which found evidence of a “consistent” association between features and problem gambling.

Loot boxes have been compared to games of chance because they allow players to spend money to unlock in-game rewards, such as special characters, weapons, or outfits, without knowing what they will get.

The features, popular in games such as Call of Duty and the Fifa football series, were effectively banned in Belgium in 2018, but Culture Minister Nadine Dorries said the UK would not follow suit.

Instead, after a 22-month consultation, she said the government would discuss tougher ‘industry-led’ protections with the UK’s £7billion gambling sector, drawing allegations from an expert that “the foxes guard the chicken coop”.

Legislating to impose restrictions or a ban on loot boxes as part of an expected overhaul of UK gambling laws could have “unintended consequences”, Dorries said.

“For example, legislation to outright ban children from purchasing loot boxes could have the unintended effect of more children using adult accounts, and therefore more limited parental oversight of their play and spending” , the government said, in a response to the consultation published in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The government also concluded that while there was a “stable and consistent” association between loot boxes and problem gambling – identified in 15 peer-reviewed studies – it could not be sure there was a link. causality.

“Our view is that it would be premature to take legislative action without first pursuing enhanced industry-led measures to provide protections for children and young people and all gamers,” he said. declared.

Another factor in the decision is that loot box rewards can’t legitimately be exchanged for real money, which means players can’t theoretically “cash out” like they would when playing. .

However, the Gambling Commission has previously warned that third-party sites allow people to redeem the rewards for real money.

While the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has held back from proposing legislation, Dorries said: ‘Children and young people should not be able to buy boxes without parental approval .

“Additionally, all players should have access to spending controls and transparent information to support their game.”

Ministers are expected to pursue tougher restrictions through talks with the UK video games industry. This will be done through a working group, which is expected to deliver its first update in the first three months of 2023.

“We expect gaming companies and platforms to improve the protection of children, young people and adults, and that tangible results will begin to be seen in the near future,” the DCMS said. “If this does not happen, we will not hesitate to consider legislative options, if we deem it necessary to protect children, young people and adults.”

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Dr David Zendle, a video game expert at the University of York, criticized the decision, saying: “Preliminary investigations by the select committee have shown unambiguously that some bad actors in the game cannot be trusted. video game industry to self-regulate in terms of player protection.

“By making these same industry bodies responsible for regulating loot boxes, DCMS is essentially ensuring that the foxes are the ones guarding the henhouse.”

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