Government responds to further parliamentary question on the relationship between loot boxes and gambling

By January 21, 2019 Press Releases

Lord Hunt has asked a further written question on what action the Government intends to take on mystery boxes in online games.

In response to the written question, Lord Ashton, Culture Minister, restated that loot boxes do not fall under gambling law where the in-game items acquired are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out. However, Lord Ashton additionally stated: ‘the Government is aware of concerns that loot boxes could encourage gambling-like behaviour and longer term lead to gambling related harm, especially amongst children, and will continue to look closely at any evidence around this issue.’

The Government is currently working closely with the games industry to improve online safety in games. Regulators have also agreed to work together to monitor the characteristics of video games and social gaming and where there is potential cross-over into gambling.

 

The full written question and answer can be found below:

Gambling: Internet
Department for Digital, Culture, Music and Sport
17 January 2019

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Children’s Commissioner about mystery boxes in online games; and whether those boxes encourage online gambling by children.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action, if any, they intend to take to prohibit the use of mystery boxes in online games.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: Mystery boxes in video games, also known as loot boxes do not fall under gambling law where the in-game items acquired are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out. However, the Government is aware of concerns that loot boxes could encourage gambling-like behaviour and longer term lead to gambling related harm, especially amongst children, and will continue to look closely at any evidence around this issue.

In September 2018, 16 regulators from Europe and the USA, including the Gambling Commission signed a declaration which outlined common concerns around gaming and gambling. The regulators agreed to work together to monitor the characteristics of video games and social gaming and where there is potential cross-over into gambling.

We welcomed the introduction last year by the VSC Ratings Board and PEGI of a new label for video games to warn parents where they include the opportunity to make in-games purchases such as loot boxes. Microtransactions in games—including loot boxes—are further subject to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which protect against misleading or aggressive marketing.

DCMS is working closely with the games industry, agencies such as the Video Standards Council (VSC) and others to improve online safety in games, including promoting healthy and responsible gaming. To better understand the relationship between social media and the mental health of children and young people up to 25 years old, the Chief Medical Officer will be leading a systematic review to examine all relevant international research in the area.[1]

[1] House of Lord, 17 January 2019a, link; and House of Lords, 17 January 2019b, link




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