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Belgium Rules Loot Boxes As Gambling, Wants Them Banned In Europe [UPDATE]

By | November 21, 2017

News  Star Wars Battlefront 2 Gaming Commission EA

Update (11/22/2017):

It appears that the Belgium Gaming Commission hasn’t actually come to the conclusion that loot boxes are actually gambling.

In an article published on French website, rtbf.com, it was revealed that due to the language of the article and the weaknesses of Google Translate, the resulting message from last night wasn’t wholly accurate. Specifically, the article on VTM News cites the words of the Minister of Justice Koen Geens, who did state that he would like to see in-game purchases banned in video games, but also takes a quote used by the Commission at the launch of its investigation: “The mixture of money and addiction is a game of chance.”

Due to these statements and the belief that one of them was made at the end of the investigation, rather than the beginning, led many to believe that the Belgium Gaming Commission came to such a conclusion when it hadn’t. In reality, the statement: “mixture of money and addiction is a game of chance,” is merely descriptive of the investigation’s intent rather than its conclusion and Geens’ statement is simply his feelings on the matter.

So, the bottom line is that while some people do believe that loot boxes in video games are indeed a form of gambling, it’s not the conclusion that the Gaming Commission has reached. In fact, it hasn’t reached any conclusion at all.

In everyone’s quest to see loot boxes demolished and EA suffer, we forgot one important thing: Google Translate is not a replacement for a legitimate translation or simply talking to those involved. Lesson learned.

In a surprising turn of events, Belgium’s Gaming Commission has ruled that loot boxes are indeed gambling and wants to see them banned in Europe.

Everything began last week when EA took things one step too far in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and tied paid loot boxes to progression. Naturally, people weren’t too pleased with this development and caused in uproar. It wasn’t just gamers who caught wind of this, as regular news outlets and, evidently, Belgium’s Gaming Commission did as well.

They looked into it and announced today that they do see purchasing loot boxes as a form of gambling and wants to see them gone from Europe. What’s surprising here isn’t just the fact they came to this conclusion, it’s the fact that they genuinely looked into at all. Loot Boxes have been an oft-discussed topic for the past month or so, and other groups have been quick to say they weren’t gambling, often likening them to card games.

The Gaming Commission said in the ruling: “The mixing of money and addiction is gambling.”

Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens also weighed in, saying, “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”

Though their stance is clear, there are still two important things to remember:

First, this only applies to loot boxes like in Battlefront 2 or Overwatch. Though many note the difference between the way loot boxes are implemented in both games (progression vs cosmetics), the Gaming Commission sees no difference between the two. So long as you don’t know what you’re paying for, then it’s gambling. Conversely, since you know exactly what you’re paying for, other forms of in-game purchases are still okay in their book.

Second, this is just a ruling — nothing more, nothing less. With this decision, loot boxes have merely been put on notice and merely gives cause for the Gaming Commission to seek their banishment from Europe. However, it still takes time to see that passed into law (assuming it gets passed at all).

Despite these caveats, this is still a significant event. Loot boxes are heavily regulated in Asia, but the US typically doesn’t pay much attention to what that region does when it comes to law. However, with Europe taking action, the folks in the US are far more likely to take action.

All that’s left is to see if they do.

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