Australian government committee urges loot box restrictions
An Australian House of Representatives committee has called for the country’s government to introduce new restrictions on loot boxes in video games in order to better protect children and young people from gambling-related harm.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs made a series of recommendations for the Digital Transformation Agency and Australian Cyber Security Centre to consider.
The over-arching recommendation was for the development of standards for online age verification for age-restricted products and services. The Committee said these standards should specify requirements for privacy, safety, security, data handling, usability, accessibility and auditing of age-verification providers.
It highlighted existing technical standards used for age verification in Australia and overseas, including the UK's Age Verification Certificate and the PAS 1296 Age Checking code of practice, Australia's Trusted Digital Identity Framework, and the European Union General Data Protection Regulation.
A further recommendation said that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner or other relevant government department should report to the government on the various options for restricting access to loot boxes and other simulated gambling elements in computer and video games to players aged 18 or over.
Meanwhile, the Committee urged the Digital Transformation Agency to extend its Digital Identity program to include an age verification exchange in order to allow for third-party online age verification.
The government should introduce a requirement that consumers would not able to use an online wagering service without first being verified by the operator that they are 18, it explained. This, the Committee said, should be integrated into the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering.
In addition, the Committee said that the eSafety Commissioner should seek to develop new educational resources to help inform parents about the various risks associated with online gambling, as well as help them to reduce children and young people’s exposure to online gambling.
The recommendations come after the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children's (LSAC) annual statistical report in December last year revealed that just under one in six Australians aged 16-17 gambled in the past year.
Of the 15.7% of participants who said they gambled, most were boys, with just over 19% of boys and 12% of girls taking part in gambling activities. Private bets with friends or family – the only legal type of bet a 16 or 17-year-old can partake in – were the most common form of betting.