Earlier this month, an effort to get video game lootboxes classified as gambling resulted in an online petition and questions being posed to the British parliament. And in a somewhat strange turn of events, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Tracey Crouch has issued a generic statement in response. The issue is that the response doesn’t have anything to do with lootboxes, it instead concerns cooperation between game developers and third-party gambling websites. The response was repeated verbatim as an answer to both questions posed.
“The Gambling Commission released a position paper in March 2017 detailing existing protections in place for in-game gambling, virtual currencies and loot boxes.
“Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.
“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the core objectives of the regulation of gambling in Great Britain and a priority for the government. The Gambling Commission have a range of regulatory powers to take action where illegal gambling is taking place. Earlier this year the Gambling Commission successfully prosecuted the operators of a website providing illegal gambling facilities for in-game items which was accessible to children – the first regulator in the world to bring such an action.
“The government recognise the risks that come from increasing convergence between gambling and computer games. The Gambling Commission is keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market.”
This was the same response given to a member of parliament who inquired about the government’s position on the issue on behalf of a constituent. “The government response is, unsurprisingly, evasive and appears to be ill-informed on the issue,” as Eurogamer put it.