Children’s Commissioner calls for “firm action” on loot boxes

| By Marese O'Hagan
Dame Rachel de Souza, the UK Children's Commissioner, has spoken out against loot boxes in video games, deeming them “inappropriate” and asking for them to be included in the definition of gambling in the UK Gambling Act.
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This comes one day after Great Britain’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that it would not take legislative action on loot boxes, two years after it opened a call for evidence.

The department instead urged video game developers to address the presence of loot boxes in games to protect young people from exhibiting gambling behaviours and forming unsafe habits.

This will involve the DCMS creating a new group of developers and regulatory bodies to protect players.

De Souza said that clause six of the Gambling Act should be expanded to include loot boxes, and therefore subjecting them to regulation.

“The current legal definition of gambling, under the Gambling Act 2005, falls short of capturing loot boxes, as the prize cannot be converted into real-world money,” said De Souza. “Clause six of the Gambling Act should be expanded to capture loot boxes, bringing them into the scope of regulation.”

She added that the government must take “firm action” on loot boxes, and not leave the responsibility to parents or the industry.

“The Children’s Commissioner believes that the Government should listen to children and parents to take firm action to prevent under-18s from buying loot boxes,” said the Commissioner. “Relying on voluntary industry action and on parental controls will leave many children exposed to the financial and psychological harms of loot boxes.”

The Commissioner also said that loot boxes encourage “harmful behaviours” among young people, an estimated majority of whom play video games.

“Online games occupy a significant part of most children’s daily lives – it is estimated that 93% of children in the UK play video games,” said the Commissioner. “Therefore it is concerning that some online games contain inappropriate features such as loot boxes, which promote harmful behaviours among children.”

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