Wilkie, who has long been a committed advocate for reform, stated that he wished to sound the alarm about the controversial video game feature, calling loot boxes “an insidious gateway to gambling that’s being widely used to target out kids”.
“Many parents might not know that loot boxes feature in games such as Star Wars, Call of Duty, FIFA and even Mario Kart,” said the MP. “Indeed, research by the Australian Gaming Council found 62% of the best-selling games contained loot boxes and that all young people surveyed had played a game featuring loot boxes.
“Disturbingly, the study also found that young people who have used loot boxes were more likely to have gambled in the last 12 months.”
The tabled bill, the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Loot Boxes) Act 2022, would ensure that any computer that contains a loot box must be classified as R18+ or else refused classification. This would legally ban games that include the feature for under-18s.
Additionally, if the amendment is passed into law, any video game that features loot boxes would have a consumer advice warning displayed on its packaging making clear that the game includes the feature.
“These companies are very smart and are making billions of dollars and that’s wrong. Clearly we cannot continue to let our children be groomed for future gambling in this way. No wonder governments around the world are beginning to wise up and take action, with loot boxes already banned in several countries, as pressure rises for regulation in many others.”
Wilkie stated that the problem had been on parliament’s radar for “many years” and it was time to do “something about it”.
Loot boxes are an issue that has been previously controversial in Australian politics. In 2020, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs called for the national government to impose new restrictions on the feature in video games so as to protect children and young people from experiencing gambling-related harm.
Andrew Wilkie and gambling
Opposition to gambling has been a tentpole of Wilkie’s political career. The former infantry officer campaigned heavily against poker machines during the 2010 federal election, later agreeing to support the Labour party in parliamentary votes in exchange for two commitments against the “pokies”.
These two commitments were that the machines be integrated with a mandatory pre-commitment technology that would force players to commit how much they were prepared to lose before starting, and an AU$1 maximum bet per spin total for machines that did not include the technology.
At the time, the proposals were opposed by the governing Abbot coalition government, and the Labour party itself dropped the commitments after gaining more seats in the House of Representatives.