“Surprise mechanics” wasn’t good enough for British lawmakers, it seems. After hauling EA over the coals last year for the relationship between loot boxes and gambling, UK regulators are ramping up the pressure to regulate loot boxes once more.
The House of Lords Gambling Committee, the BBC reported, has argued for loot boxes to “immediately” be brought “within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation”. In the full report, which you can read here, the committee stressed that the UK should regulate sooner, rather than later:
446. We recommend that Ministers should make regulations under section 6(6) of the Gambling Act 2005 specifying that loot boxes and any other similar games are games of chance, without waiting for the Government’s wider review of the Gambling Act.
The recommendations echo a report by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last year. The committee is the one where EA testified that its loot boxes were “surprise mechanics”, which did little to stop the committee from Fahad Tamimi urging loot boxes be regulated as games of chance.
“It is too late to regulate a product as gambling, when it has already caused harm to children and young people,” the House of Lords report reads. “Neither the Government nor the Gambling Commission can afford to wait years before bringing new ‘gambling-like’ products within the remit of the Act.”
While other countries such as Belgium have taken a strong stance on the regulation of loot boxes — and certain senators have made noise in the United States — Australia has adopted a slower approach. State attorneys-general and state gambling regulators encouraged the Federal Government to consider stronger regulation of loot boxes and microtransactions in a Senate inquiry into microtransactions two years ago. The inquiry, however, instead called on the-then Department of Communications to conduct a “comprehensive review” of loot boxes.
Australian lawmakers, however, found evidence comparing the mechanics of loot boxes to other forms of gambling was “compelling”:
Through the inquiry analogous evidence was given which compared both the mechanics of loot boxes and the potential for gambling-related harms to be experienced, to other more widely researched forms of gambling. We found this evidence compelling, particularly in light of the evidence that loot boxes utilise a number of psychological mechanisms seen in other forms of gambling such as poker…