Belgian Regulator Decides That Loot Boxes Are Gambling

Decision follows an enquiry into the practice of offering crates for sale or as prizes

Following an enquiry into the use of loot boxes in video games (see previous InfoPowa report) a panel of Belgian Gaming Commission officials has concluded that in certain circumstances the practice constitutes gambling.

The panel specifically named Overwatch, FIFA 18 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive but dropped Star Wars Battlefront II from its allegation of gambling law contravention after the developer stopped offering paid crates.

Loot boxes are randomised crates containing a mix of gaming accessories and prizes which players can buy or win as prizes.

Criteria used by the panel in reaching its decision included the prevalence of chance, the possibility of profit or loss, and whether a gaming element is present.

Although the panel finally focused on just three games, it noted that the use of loot boxes is widespread and many other games are potentially in contravention of gambling laws.

Judging by subsequent statements from the Ministry of Justice it appears that developers and operators can avoid the “gambling” classification by halting the practice of selling the loot boxes (as opposed to awarding them as prizes).

The press release notes: “The games with paid loot boxes, as currently offered in our country, are therefore in violation of the gaming legislation and can be dealt with under criminal law. The loot boxes must therefore be removed. If that does not happen, operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros. When minors are involved, those punishments can be doubled.”

Justice Minister Koen Geens has called for dialogue between the Gaming Commission and video game operators to ensure there is a clear understanding on what is legal and what is not.

The Belgian ruling comes less than a week after the Netherlands outlawed FIFA 18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League on similar grounds, and US states like Hawaii and Washington are reportedly considering legislative measures to either ban or regulate loot box mechanics in games.