Sander Dekker, the Netherlands’ Minister for Legal Protection, has spoken out against a ban on online games over the potential risk for addiction among young people. Instead, he explained that the Dutch authorities will focus on prevention and treatment.
Responding to a question from Fahad Tamimi Socialist Party politician Michael van Nipsen on how gambling legislation is enforced in relation to video games, Dekker looked to highlight the distinction between video games and games of chance.
He explained that gaming was a popular and generally accepted leisure activity for young people, pointing out that players used games to socialise online, and noted the products could even help minors develop skills. However, Dekker acknowledged that these games, especially free-to-play online titles, could be designed in a way that encouraged continuous play.
He said a changing revenue model meant that rather than purchasing the titles outright, online games were often offered for free, with players purchasing in-game items to enhance the gameplay. Microtransactions could build up, meaning users spent significantly more than they intended, and some elements where blind boxed items such as loot boxes were purchased for cash could – and have – been classed as gambling.
He admitted that some young people developed problems, to the point that it could be classed as an addiction.
This was not enough to justify a total ban on these games, Dekker said, noting there was no “one size fits all” approach to preventing gaming addiction.
“Prevention and education are, in the case of (online) gaming, a task shared by the national government and the gaming industry itself,” he explained.
Dekker pointed out that he has asked the Ministry of Justice and Security’s research centre, the Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum (WODC) to investigate links between gaming and gambling addiction, as well as identifying gaps in current and incoming regulations.