Federal Trade Commission to launch loot box investigation
The scandal surrounding loot boxes took a serious turn this week as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) agreed to launch an official investigation into whether loot boxes should be classe as gambling and their effect on chilren.
The decision was made after a hearing yesterday lead by FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, in which Simons confirmed the FTC would be looking into the issue.
Senator Maggie Hasan, who is credited with bringing the issue before the FTC in recent months, also addressed the panel, and cited the similarities between loot boxes and gambling.
Hassan referred to a recent UK Gambling Commission report that showed that almost a third of children in the UK had paid money to open a loot box. That study found a 400% increase in the number of children gambling, thanks, in part, to loot boxes.
Speaking at the hearing, Hassan said:
Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games. Would you commit to undertaking this project and keeping this committee informed about it?– Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire Senator
The FTC was careful not to state its current position on loot boxes ahead of the investigation and simply replied with an affirmative to Hassan’s question. However, bills introduced elsewhere in the US this year have been mostly unsuccessful in earning agreement that loot boxes should be classed as a form of gambling.
Chris Lee, State Representative in Hawaii, saw his state-level bill fall in Committee earlier this year, while similar legilsation in states like Washington and California is also moving painfully slowly.
However, lawmakers have seen progress elsewhere in the world. In Europe, both Holland and Belgium have forced some game makers to remove or edit the loot boxes available in their games. Belgium has even opened legal proceedings against developer Electronic Arts (EA) for not removing loot box equivalents from its FIFA 18 and 19 games.
That move followed legislation passed earlier in the year in Belgium stating that many loot boxes constitue a game of chance and fall under the scrutiny of gambling legislation and regulation.
Recently, game developer Square Enyx removed three mobile games from the country to avoid pressure from Belgian authorities.