Yesterday the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) gave its opinion on loot boxes in games with regards to gambling. The VCGLR was of the opinion that “what occurs with “loot boxes” does constitute gambling by the definition of the Victorian Legislation.”
Today, Kotaku has been in contact with Queensland’s equivalent regulator, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation. Unfortunately, Queensland’s legislation leaves the regulator unable to categorise loot boxes as gambling.
The regulator’s Robert Grimmond responded to Kotaku’s enquiry and said, “Regrettably, as a regulator of legalised gambling in Queensland, I am not in a position to definitively advise whether ‘loot boxes’ or similar video game features would constitute ‘gambling’.”
The key difference seems to lie in Queensland’s Gaming Machine Act. The Gaming Machine Act has an incredibly narrow purview and relates only to electronic gaming of the poker machine variety. It’s a case of the legislation being behind technology. To classify loot boxes as gambling, Queensland would need to introduce new legislation.
Grimmond said, “I do not consider that ‘loot boxes’ at the cost of real currency would constitute gambling. As such, the OLGR would have no legislative authority to regulate or ban these products.”
Kotaku was also referred to the Entertainment Software Association by EA when seeking comment on the developments of the past few days. The ESA wrote to Kotaku;
Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling.
Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision.
Taken from the ESA’s website, it defines itself thusly, “The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet.”
EA is a member of the ESA and as a member is entitled to benefits such as “help to set the association’s priorities on legislative and government policy issues.” The ESA is a group that’s sole purpose is to enhance and further the interests of game developers and publishers.
It makes sense for the ESA to defend loot boxes in the face of overwhelming criticism and potential legislative change. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.