Three Video Games with Loot Boxes Violate Belgian Gambling Law, Regulator Finds

At least three video games featuring loot boxes have been breaching Belgian gambling laws, an investigation by the Belgian Gaming Commission has shown. The news about the regulator’s position on the widely publicized issue comes shortly after its Dutch counterpart released its own findings regarding the virtual items just days ago.

Loot boxes gained broad attention with the fall 2017 release of the Star Wars Battlefront II video game. The latest installment of the popular Star Wars: Battlefront series quickly became the subject of major controversy due to the fact that it included a loot box monetization scheme.

Generally speaking, loot boxes are special items can be purchased in-game. They contain further items that can be extremely helpful to a player within the game, but can also be of little value. Each loot box includes a random selection of items and its contents only become known to a player after its purchase is completed.

The Belgian Gaming Commission was among the gambling regulators to question the nature of loot boxes. The regulatory opened a probe into the matter, the results of which were made public earlier today.

The Gaming Commission investigated four video games – Star Wars Battlefront II, FIFA 18, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch. The regulator found out that loot boxes in three of the games – FIFA 18, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatchviolated Belgium’s gambling law. The Commission said that developers of Star Wars Battlefront II have addressed the issue following the controversy the game was embroiled in and that its loot box system no longer violated Belgian gaming regulations.

Under the country’s gambling law, spending real money on an item that could influence a player’s performance in a game constitutes a game of chance if the contents of such an item are determined by chance.

Teenagers at Risk

The Commission expressed concerns that loot boxes in video games and their gambling nature are putting vulnerable players at great risk. Video games are often played by players under the allowed age for gambling but being exposed by products that resemble gambling risks normalizing the activity.

The gambling regulator said today that developers of games with paid loot boxes violate Belgium’s gambling law and can be fined or even sentenced to prison for such a violation. They thus must remove the controversial in-game items or can otherwise face fines of up to €800,000 and or prison time of up to five years.

In a similar move, the Netherlands Gambling Authority, Kansspelautoriteit, announced last week the results from its own probe into loot boxes. The regulator investigated ten video games that featured loot boxes and were available to Dutch players.

Kansspelautoriteit found that four out of the ten games violated the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act as their loot box systems incorporated elements of games of chance into skill-based games. The provision of games of chance without the necessary authorization from the Dutch gambling regulator is strictly prohibited in the Netherlands.

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