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In-game loot boxes declared illegal by Belgium government for violating gambling laws

Publishers are liable to a hefty fine or even jail time of upto 5 years if found to be in violation.

  • Published: April 27, 2018 3:49 PM IST
Overwatch loot box

In-game loot boxes have been deemed “in violation of gambling legislation” by the Belgium government and have thus been banned by the Belgium Gaming Commission. All games that offer loot boxes that need to be bought for real money must now remove them from the games in Belgium. And not complying with the new laws could mean that the publishers will be subject to criminal law. Companies will be fined €800,000 (Rs 6,45,23,000) for failure to comply with the new laws, and guilty executives of the companies can even be imprisoned for 5 years in jail.

Koen Geens, Belgium’s Minister of Justice, talked about how children are affected when confronted with payable loot boxes and said that mixing gaming and gambling is “dangerous for the mental health” of the children. The statement even mentioned that when minors are involved the punishment could even be doubled.

This decision from Belgium is in contrast to those from the US and UK which have ruled that loot boxes in games do not clash with the gambling laws in those countries. EA Sports, which is one of the companies among those that have paid loot boxes in its games, told GamesIndustry that it “welcomed the dialogue with minister Geens” and stressed that none of its games could be considered for gambling.

“We strongly believe that our games are developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world, and take these responsibilities very seriously,” said the spokesperson in his comment.

In its investigation the Belgium Gaming Commission considered four games: Fifa 18, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Star Wars Battlefront II. Of which only Battlefront II was found to be not in violation after EA stopped micro-transactions.

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Loot boxes in games can be considered a lucky box which gives away character skins, cosmetic items, props and other things in a random manner. These can usually be earned through gameplay or in some cases, bought using real money. And the value of the rewards of a loot box that someone spent about Rs 300 on could range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 3, which brings up the parallels to gambling.

  • Published Date: April 27, 2018 3:49 PM IST