Are loot boxes gambling?


Wow that’s some decent research !

(Neil M) #42

Further to that, you could look for consumables over non-consumables. No idea how that comes up in a transaction feed. This approach would also work on apple and I think Android as well.
I would love to test this but the API is a little painful to use… Please feel free to tag anyone who might be better placed to see if this could work
Do you know if transactions are XML based?


Considering loot boxes gambling raises the question of does this only apply if they’re spending real money to acquire these boxes?

I can very easily see EA/Epic Games just making it so you can win the in-game currency in games. They’d let you then purchase the loot boxes with the in-game currency. This means they have a perfectly good argument that you don’t need to buy anything. You can play it for free, you just have to wait.

Even worse than the issue of loot boxes themselves is people are likely to buy enough to buy (amount of in-game currency) that equals to an even amount of loot boxes, which could encourage more spending.

I personally consider it gambling and think it should be regulated the same, however I don’t think that vendors that sell this type of thing should be hit by the gambling block.

Assuming its eventually recognised as gambling, they should then pass the correct MCC, ensuring the block should work without manual intervention (unless from a service in the EU in a country that doesn’t consider it gambling?).

I’m not sure why you’d go as far as wanting gambling sponsorship on sports kits though @Dannytc, from all the young kids I’ve seen they couldn’t care less about their football team sponsors. I’m also not sure why you’d link this to buying kit, there’s a very clear difference between having your mum buy you some Nike trainers because you support a football team and a adult consentually signing their money away to a gambling service.

I’m sure we can all agree that if we start controlling everything, it’s not going to look good for the UK when it comes to foreign businesses. Much easier to expand to a more lax country.

Also, how does Gachapon stand on this front. I understand that Japan has pretty strict gambling laws, but Gachapon is a very popular game monetisation tool.

They’re paying for continuous running of servers and blizzard doesn’t make endless sales considering that games like Overwatch don’t require a subscription. Activision tend to run their servers for long amount of times also, so I don’t see your point here either.

Why would they run the servers for you to be able to play the game for a long time, if they stopped making money off of them? I wouldn’t. I’d cut it and move to the next game, or I’d launch in a country where my business model was viable.

Not doubting your statics @Dannytc, but could I have a source on this? I’m curious as to what they consider as gambling addicts, like what constitutes gambling for someone under 18.

I’m relatively sure most kids think these are illegal to use while they’re under 18, or they’re afraid their parents won’t be happy with them.

I thought you had to be 18 to gamble regardless of what the amount was etc, and I know most people I know also were under this belief. You have to already have a problem to actually look up specifically “what age can I gamble at”. I’m sure they’d find other ways if this were cut off from them anyways.

If I remember Belgium enforced this, but I suppose that it’s not gambling if you know the odds, as its not an unknown risk, but a conscious risk you’re aware of and choose?

Age ratings aren’t actually enforced so this makes no difference. You can legally buy a 16 for a 6 year old and no one cares. Most parents would ignore it anyways as loot boxes don’t look that bad and I doubt they’re going to deny their kid FIFA 2086 because it has some packs you can buy within the game.

This then gets into the argument of do we legally enforce games age ratings and hold parents accountable for buying their kids the games underage. This obviously wouldn’t work from a standpoint of anyone, the government would get ripped to shreds over it and the parents would buy the games regardless. It could be used against everyone and their mother and its waste police time enforcing this.

I would argue its just better to get rid of the age ratings entirely. They don’t work. If you’re not noticing what games your child is playing at your house, you have bigger issues than a game age rating.

Woah, this was a long post. Apologies :wink: I got here late.


A bit rushed this morning but the stat about gambling, is from gambling commission directly:

The Slots which are legal for under 18 and in a more places than you would realise from the outside looking in are CAT D:
These are not age restricted to over 18.

Logos on Kits is a bit one, its about Brand awareness and normalising them, when we were growing up would be a great big Nike logo or something similar on a kit, to encourage you to use the product of you home team, but to be running around at 8 years old with “Betfair” wrote in huge letters across you chest is just reinforcing the brand is ok and that gambling is normal, we are in a mess at the moment with our kids being shown how to gamble far to young, it’s like we want them to turn 18 with a desire for gambling already there.

(Tom Reynolds) #45

In this particular example, all purchased perks are 100% cosmetic and absolutely no purchases are needed to ‘compete’. That said, kids across the globe still buy the gear to ‘fit in’ with their friends, in the same way as real tangible clothing. I purchase Battle Pass once every 10 weeks and am comfortable doing so as I have a reasonable income. It does however concern me that this pressure is put on families by their kids that may not have that disposable income - it’s just like any other fad.


True - I’m in 2 minds over it.

On the one hand, I don’t want my son to become addicted to the game like so many of his friends are (he’s limited to weekends only, and a few hours at most).

But then, he hasn’t asked for Fifa, or any of the other games he might usually ask for, and he’d be ecstatic with an £8 battle pass! :joy:

(Tom Reynolds) #47

I think the hardest differentiation for IAPs is whether the transaction itself is for an ‘item’ or a ‘loot box’.

Some games offer both known virtual items, with or without a competitive advantage (feeding into the pay to win argument, a whole different can of worms); and loot boxes where you ‘pay your money and take your chance’.

One is clearly an informed purchase and the other is arguably gambling.

I am absolutely in favour of some functionality to optionally prevent in-game ‘gambling’ transactions, or known IAPs, or both; the biggest difficulty I see here though is differentiating between the two different purchases from the same application.

Would love to hear any views on if/how this could be achievable.

(Neil M) #48

I think a loot boxes only count as gambling if you are using real hard earn money. A loot box that is purchasable with the in game currency I would argue is not gambling as if you lose all the in game currency, it doesn’t negatively effect your real world life.
Although is it the emotional response to winning that makes it so addictive and is education rather than regulation the way forward.
I think the publishing of loot Box probability was a deliberate way of games companies trying to make loot boxes look less like gambling.
I wonder if more and more is a social issue rather than regulatory issue and that preventing children(any young adult) from becoming addicted starts in the home and having discussion such as what are loot boxes, but also equipping parents, guardians etc. to have these discussions. But also the children themselves to understand they are buying something on a computer that has no inherent value( Do not get me started on skin betting :joy:)

(Nick) #49

That argument works if the in-game currency is only earned in-game.

However, I can’t think of any game these days that doesn’t let you buy in-game currency with real money.

Thus the distinction is removed.

(Tom Reynolds) #50


If you play Zynga poker (others are available) then you can ‘buy’ virtual chips. In my eyes, a kid being allowed to throw down a tenner is no different than allowing them to sit down at a card table. The kicker, you can’t even cash out and sell your chips (at least not without breaking the Terms of Use).

I am a semi-regular low stakes poker player. I predominantly play face-to-face and am not a huge fan of online gambling. I agree everybody should have the right to make their own choices, but I don’t agree we should be giving kids access to table games, and allowing them to spend hard cash to partake.

(Neil M) #51

I think the only game that I can currently think of is the BETA branch of Heroes of the storm. The only reason you’re allowed to is because its testing and its reset every few weeks.

(Neil M) #52

No, but the issue will be the argument that all betting companies say which probably go along the line of “But its the bill payers responsibility”.
In terms of what can be done in terms of a filter I think you would have to delve into MCC transaction codes etc. As I have been looking into the technicalities and it would seem broadly IAP are spilt into consumables and non consumables. So theoretically by that logic a Boost and virtual in-game cash would be defined as consumable and a skin a non consumable.
Unfortunately, I don’t use IAPs or gambling Apps so I can’t dive into a real transaction and try and understand what it is doing.


I think it’d be pretty nice if they banned online gambling, as gambling addicts tend to do so online also, it’s a lot easier to hide a problem when it’s limited to your computer screen.

I’m not sure if this is correct but I’m sure @Dannytc could verify this for me?


Publishers are only running servers in the first place because if benefits them. When people pay for, as an example, Xbox Live, they’re paying for servers at Microsoft and those servers are free for publishers to use and some of the best ones anyone can get. Older COD games use them, that’s why you can play them online to this day.

Publishers started using their own servers because it’s advantageous to them in collecting data, so to then turn around and say servers cost money when they only use their own servers because it benefits them is very disingenuous

There’s no good reason why we should in some way have to pay publishers for servers

(Mark Woosey) #55

Regardless of any monetary cost to purchase additional loot boxes, the overall practise, including with free reward loot boxes is a very dark pattern for gaming and gamer behaviours.

Loot boxes work under the psychology principle of variable rate reinforcement, which causes dopamine production at higher rates due to the unpredictable nature of the reward in contrast to fixed rewards.

I’m guessing variable rate reinforcement is a shared feature of gambling too, part of what drives the addictiveness of both practises.


(Neil M) #56

Thank you for the link, its a very interesting loop. I know that that have been experiments in compulsion loops for animals and theorised that gamers and gamblers do the same.


Here’s the thing though. Loot boxes being exposed to children is not a new concept in itself, only we used to call them ‘booster packs’

Trading card games such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Match Attax etc. work in the same way as loot boxes do, only that in some games you can only get cosmetic items from loot boxes whereas for TCGs you can only play with cards bought from booster packs (or getting them from someone else)

So if you decide to ban all systems exposed to minors where there is an element of chance involved in getting certain items, do you ban all trading card games for doing the same thing as well?

(Leon) #58

What? Yeah well let’s ban eating food as well, as some people have problems with food. In fact let’s ban everything as there is nothing called personal responsibility anymore.

(Neil M) #59

I think that is the difficult thing,in the 90s the idea behind packs changed. They used to based off one rarity i.e you would buy a pack and it would contain similar rarity cards and you could trade between your peers.
Now most card games include rarity probability. I.e it will take you x number of packs to find a legendary( for hearthstone for example).These can be classed as Chaser cards.
Chaser cards are cards, that for my definition are required to meet a certain collection or Meta. For example Exodia in Yu-Gi-oh is an ulta rare is 1:12 this has been recently reduced to 1:6. Most people are collecting Yu-Gi-oh, MTG etc. for two main reasons either for Playability( complete the Exodia set) or for collect-ability.(Completing a game set(Maybe Yugi’s original set)
The difference with Loot boxes and virtual card games is whether the player would purchase them and collect them anyway. I.e would you collect hearthstone cards because you want the set rather than needing them to be competitive in the Meta?
Personally I would implore Hearthstone to changes its business model but keep trading card games such as Pokemon as they are as there are other reasons to why the person is buying the card.
As a source of information I watched this video:
what about trading cards
Interesting but mostly looking at the law situation behind it.


I was listening to LBC a few weeks back when the story of kids gambling came up, I used to work for PlayStation so know exactly how parents feel when their kids actually have stolen the card details wether to get loot boxes or fifa points works the same as loot boxes, a guy called in as stated that the gaming industry is actually looking at other options like a £5 monthly subscription in this case was for fortnight, so we will have to wait and see.

Also for PlayStation at least all transaction for loot boxes in game purchases go through the PlayStation store and not sure if they are coded differently for an actual game purchase or an in game store purchase