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Spain to ban loot boxes for minors

| By Daniel O'Boyle
The Spanish Ministry of Consumption has opened a consultation on a draft law that would ban the use of "loot box" mechanics for minors.

Loot boxes – a video game mechanic in which a player pays for a game where they may receive an in-game item as decided by a random number generator – have been a major topic of discussion in Spain recently. Last year, regulator the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) opened a consultation asking whether loot boxes should require new regulation, be regulated as gambling products or prohibited entirely.

This new consultation follows on from 2021’s. The current consultation determined that there was a “clear similarity” between loot boxes and gambling, but also noted that there were differences that “cannot be ignored”.

It noted that under current rules, for an activity to be gambling it must meet three conditions. 

The report found that the “pecularities” of loot boxes ultimately meant that a specific set of ad hoc rules needed to be established.

These rules include a ban on the use of loot boxes by minors, defined as those under 18.

“In order to guarantee the effectiveness of this prohibition, the entities that offer loot boxes must enable a documentary verification system of the identity of the participants,” it said.

In addition, it set up rules for advertising the products, including time limits similar to those imposed on the gambling sector, with ads only permitted to be broadcast between 1am and 5am. These ads may not “incite the thoughtless or compulsive practice of this activity” or “mislead about the possibility of being awarded”.

Ads must also include messages telling players to only use loot boxes in moderation.

When paying for a loot box, players must also have the right to receive information “in a clear and sufficiently understandable way” about the possibility of obtaining a certain object. The cost of these items must also be shown in euros, rather than simply with in-game credits.

Game developers must also set up a self-exclusion scheme, allowing players to opt out of having access to loot boxes.

Players who self-exclude may also be entitled to “the eventual return of the amounts of money or virtual objects that were committed exclusively to loot boxes”.

Players must also be permitted to set personal spending limits and time limits for the mechanic.

Serious infractions of these rules – such as failure to display information about the probability of winning certain items – can lead to a fine of up to €200,000.

Infractions classed as “very serious”, such as allowing a minor to use loot boxes, can carry a fine of up to €3m.

Stakeholders may offer their opinions on the draft law up until 23 July.

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