In the midst of the raging controversy surrounding EA, loot boxes, and Star Wars: Battlefront II, several European gaming commissions underwent investigations into the legality of the loot box mechanic and its possible designation of “gambling.” Yesterday, it was announced that Belgium’s commission had reached a verdict and ruled loot boxes to be unlawful gambling—however, it seems the truth of the story had gotten lost in translation.
First pointed out by French publication RTBF (and handily translated by Reddit user /u/Terethor), no official statement has actually been handed down by the Gambling Commission. Rather, the quotes sourced yesterday by many publications—that the “mixture of money and addiction is gambling”—came from the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens. Geens is simply eager to see loot boxes banned from video games and titles sporting the feature kept off of European shelves.
RTBF reached out to the head of the Gambling Commission, Etienne Marique, who emphatically denied that a definitive conclusion has been reached on the subject. However, there are plans to increase the committee’s oversight and look deeper into the topic. According to Marique, “this link between money and online gambling is a problem that has been identified for several years,” and she notes that “the Gambling Commission would like to see its competences extended in order to become the Gaming Commission, so that it can better analyse [sic] these phenomena.”
The revelation of the loot box problem in gaming has occurred quickly and intensely, with many political agents and agencies from around the world now deeply scrutinizing the practice. Particularly of note are statements made yesterday by a Democratic representative from Hawaii, Chris Lee; in no uncertain terms, he lambasted Battlefront II as “a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money.”
If this wave of opinion continues, microtransactions in games may someday become a thing of the past. They’re a predatory practice, especially when they’re targeted at young children, and—as Lee states, well aware of his audience—“it’s a trap!”