The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is due to launch a call for evidence into loot boxes, which could see the video games feature reclassified as a gambling product.
Loot boxes have been a topic of controversy in recent years, with concerns raised over whether they encourage children and younger audiences to gamble.
Loot boxes are items embedded within games, containing randomised rewards which are uncertain at the point of purchase. These can be cosmetic, such as ‘skins’ that change the appearance of an in-game character, or provide users with an advantage in gameplay.
This video game feature is currently not covered by the UK’s existing gambling legislation due to the lack of monetary value associated with the items ‘won’ – as the topic of loot boxes blurs dynamics between competitive gaming and gambling.
“They are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalise and encourage young people to take a chance,” said the Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party group of MPs investigating gambling-related harm.
“All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling.”
In September 2019, DCMS called for further restrictions to be placed on the sale of loot boxes to those under 18.
Carrying out a report on ‘addictive and immersive technologies’, the DCMS argued that online games should receive the same levels of age restriction as physical sales of gambling products to best protect its users, and that the gaming industry should contribute financially towards independent research into the long-term effects of gaming.
Meanwhile the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) had previously urged the Conservative Government to introduce legislation which would classify loot boxes and skin betting as legally-recognised forms of gambling.