Belgium rules loot boxes violate country’s gambling laws
The Belgian Gaming Commission has ruled that loot boxes in three video-games are games of chance and therefore should be classified as a form of gambling.
Loot boxes in the games FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, have been defined as gambling, with the games thereby violating the country’s gambling laws.
The Commission is said to first look to give publishers the chance to act on the decision, rather than immediately facing punishment. A deadline to act has not been given, but publishers of the titles have been ordered to remove loot boxes or face criminal charges.
Current Belgian law states that penalties of up to €800,000 and up to five years in prison can be issued. The prison sentence can be doubled if minors are involved in the gambling.
The news follows a ruling from Holland last week where the Netherlands Gaming Authority ruled that loot boxes in four of ten video-games investigated violated its gambling legislation.
The Netherlands too demanded publishers remove or modify the feature by June 20, or they will face legal action.
Belgium was one of the first countries to seriously investigate loot boxes and skin betting in video-games, with the Commission beginning investigative proceedings back in November 2017.
That investigation was prompted by the Belgian Minister of Justice, Koen Geens. Geens issued a statement on this ruling, saying:
We have already taken numerous measures to protect both minors and adults against the influence of, among other things, gambling advertising… That is why we must also ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game.– Koen Geens, Belgian Minister of Justice
The Commission has also made it clear that not all loot boxes constitute gambling. In its investigation, four factors were considered when determining if loot boxes were a form of gambling: if there’s a game element, if there’s a betting element, if there’s a chance of profit or loss, and whether there’s a chance element.
The furor over loot boxes and skin betting gained public and regulator’s attention with the release of the Stars Wars Battlefront 2 game by EA.
Interestingly, Battlefront 2 was the only game investigated by the Belgian Commission whose loots boxes were found not to constitute gambling, after the publisher made some key changes to the feature after much public criticism.