16 gambling regulators banded together at the annual meeting 2018 of the Gambling Regulators European Forum to release a declaration. The statement expresses their concerns that are associated with the imperceptible lines between gambling and gaming. The 16 gambling regulators are from Europe with the only exception from Washington of the United States of America.
Regulators have found that some of these video games have similar traits to those of online gambling sites. Bear in mind that regulations in certain areas differ to each other. However, they have agreed to work together to ensure high standards of integrity and consumers are protected. Of course, the industry, in general, prefers to not relate loot boxes from gambling. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, for instance, prefers to associate it with merchandise like packs of cards or toys. The ESRB believes that consumers will always get something in return for their investment and that by itself is an indication that microtransactions aren’t gambling.
Researchers disagree on psychological grounds
University of Adelaide’s Senior Research Associate, Dr Daniel King, stated in the journal Addiction, “gaming companies have implemented little to nothing by way of social responsibility measures.” He added that players, especially children, cannot fully understand the value of the items they’re getting in the games. For all they know it’s to enjoy the moment and to look good while doing it.
Dr David Zendle, a lecturer in York St. John University agrees in that the psychological criteria of loot boxes share many resemblances with that of gambling. He stated that “buying loot boxes may, therefore, lead to problem gambling amongst gamers”. As loot boxes share compelling similarities to gambling, this may shape gamers to want the satisfaction that is somewhat like gambling. This, in turn, will lead to problem gambling for gamers.
What’s the end game?
The gambling commissions and regulators now plan to raise awareness especially for parents on gaming. There is gaming for leisure and then there’s the possibility of gambling elements to be in the mix. If all goes well this will initiate a dialogue between the regulators and gaming companies to come together and create solutions for this controversy to end.