Are loot boxes gambling? Now you can have your say!

  • Updated
  • By Hannah Timoney
Are loot boxes gambling? Call for evidence open

After frequent rallying for loot boxes in video games to be regulated as gambling by the UK government and the House of Lords, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has begun their planned call for evidence on this in-game mechanic.

The aim of the enquiry is to establish whether the feature encourages or leads to problem gambling in children and adults, which would hopefully lead to regulation of games that include loot boxes, and the video game publishers that operate them.

What's a loot box?

In video games, a loot box is an in-game item that players can buy and often include prizes like timed bonuses, cosmetic items, emotes and even playable characters or new weapons, depending on the game.

These items can be perceived as worthless to the player, however there are some items that have incredible worth inside the game, which are highly sought after by players.

When purchasing a loot box, players do not know the exact contents of what they will receive, which effectively makes them a form of gambling.

Players can become addicted to buying these digital treasure troves as they try to find that one item they have been searching for, and as the UK Gambling Commission states that loot boxes are technically not gambling, there is no regulation in place to protect them.

However, when the House of Lords said that loot boxes should be regulated immediately back in June, they stated “if a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, then it should be regulated as gambling", which in the case of Grand Theft Auto's virtual casino, would mean that Rockstar Games would require a gambling license to operate it.

How can I have my say?

The DMCS will be collecting information, conducting research and studying evidence based on third party research into the subject, but now you can get involved too! If you have been affected by loot boxes, or even if you have an opinion on the matter, the DMCS wants to hear from you.

You can submit your experience as a player over on the loot box inquiry page on the UK Gov website now. The call to action applies to video game players and their parents, and also to video game businesses, researches, organisations, and any other civil society with an interest in the issue, and remains open until the 22nd November. 

The findings will be presented to the government to offer a better understanding of the loot box industry within video games, and help implement better player protection if it is determined to be necessary.