Government to launch enquiry into gambling and gaming links

The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee (DCMS) plans to launch an official investigation into the links between gaming and gambling. The investigation will examine the effect of in-game micro-transactions on children and advise government on future regulation and policy.

Houses of Parliamnet at night

The DCMS plans to begin the investigation after finishing its current enquiry into fake news. © Pexels.

The DCMS will look closely at “immersive and addictive technologies” with the key goal of determining the how in-game, real-money transactions impact the children who play these games.

These so called micro-transactions, usually to purchase loot boxes, have hit the headlines repeatedly over the last year. Children have been known to effectively gamble hundreds of pounds for skins or other in-game features. Currently, most countries seem hesitant to officially classify micro-transactions or loot boxes as gambling.

But, concern remains high that children are being exposed to gambling mechanics from a young age. This investigation will look to shape regulation that will guard against any potential negative effects, while not necessarily damaging the gaming industry, as DCMS Chair, Damian Collins, explains:

We’ll be looking at what action is needed to ensure we remain a key player. We want to understand more about its potential and the future impact it could have on society. During our recent inquiries, the committee has heard repeated concerns about the impact to society of the increasing amounts of time that people spend immersed in online worlds, and the potentially addictive nature of social media and gaming. We want to explore these concerns during this inquiry and consider what the right response should be in setting public policy for the future. Damian Collins, DCMS Chair

In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is to launch its own investigation into loot boxes. The FTC will investigate the effects of in-game gambling on children, but will also look to reach a recommendation on whether loot boxes should be officially classed as gambling.

Currently, Belgium is the only country to take concrete action against loot boxes after declaring them gambling. Belgian authorities have even forced some developers not to include loot boxes in their games for the Belgian market.

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