Regulators join forces against video-game gambling

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), together with fifteen other gambling regulators across Europe and the Washington State Gambling Commission, have joined forces to address the increasingly mutual relationship between video-games and gambling.

An Xbox controller

The group has pledged to take action against the blurring lines between gambling and video games. © Pexels.

The regulators have signed a declaration that they say will enable them to “work together to address the risks created by the blurring of lines between gaming and gambling”.

Loot boxes, skin betting, social casino gaming, and gambling themed content within children’s video games are all top concerns of the group.

The group hopes that this move will help create a platform for dialogue between regulators and game publishers, while also raising consumer and parental awareness on the issue.

Speaking about the pledge, Neil McArthur, chief executive at the UK Gambling Commission, said:

We have joined forces to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children. We encourage video games companies to work with their gambling regulators and take action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected. We want parents to be aware of the risks and to talk to their children about how to stay safe online. For example, unlicensed websites offering skins betting can pop up at any time and children could be gambling with money intended for computer game products.Neil McArthur, UK Gambling Commission chief executive

A crackdown on skin betting platforms

One priority of the group is to crack down on the third-party, often unlicensed websites that allow gamers to trade or gamble with items or objects – commonly referred to as skins – won or purchased in many modern video-games. A survey by the UKGC last year found that 11% of children had taken part in skins betting or trading.

Those skins are often found in so-called loot boxes, themselves the source of much debate over the last few years. The group have stated that they will seek to ensure that these loot boxes do not fall foul of gambling laws.

But, there is much debate about whether loot boxes do constitute gambling. Authorities in Belgium have deemed loot boxes illegal, while the UKGC’s current official stance is that they do not constitute gambling, since they cannot be cashed out for real money.

Enforcement may prove even more difficult, as Belgium is currently finding out. Back in April, Belgium ruled that loot boxes in multiple games did violate its gambling laws, and requested the publishers to remove them from the games.

Three publishers complied, but Electronic Arts (EA) is yet to act on removing FIFA Ultimate Team from its FIFA series, causing the Belgian Gaming Commission to launch an official criminal investigation into EA that could end up in court.

You can read the group’s joint declaration at the Gambling Commission’s website.

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