The Netherlands Gaming Authority will probe into the so-called loot boxes in video games and their relation to gambling as part of its crackdown on illegal gambling and the potential participation of children in gambling activities.
The recent release of the Star Wars Battlefront II video game gripped the gaming industry in great controversy as it offers players the opportunity to make in-game loot box purchases. Generally speaking, loot boxes contain different and rather random selection of items. Some of these can boost a player’s performance in the game, while others can be of much less value.
The opportunity for Star Wars Battlefront II players to buy loot boxes drew the attention of several European gambling regulators, including the Belgian Gaming Commission and the Netherlands Gaming Authority.
Marja Appelman, CEO of Kansspelautoriteit, the Dutch gambling regulator, said during her Sunday appearance in Dutch television program Kassa that the recent release of Star Wars Battlefront II, developed by popular video game company EA, has caught their attention and that they will probe more thoroughly into loot boxes and the risks these may pose to those playing video games that feature the purchasable items.
Regulators fear that the creation of a random loot economy as part of the latest Star Wars game is akin to gambling. And given the fact that the game will be played by players under 18, as well, this could lead to the trivialization of gambling among children.
The in-game purchases have been removed temporarily by EA, while the issue is being under investigation.
Kansspelautoriteit’s Concerns over Social Gaming
The Dutch gambling regulator has also recently raised flags in relation to the increased interest in social games among young people and the risks this trend might pose. According to the regulatory body the boundary between social gaming and gambling for actual money could be very thin and vulnerable people could easily cross it.
The gambling authority has estimated that the nation’s social games market is currently worth around €27 million and is expected to grow further in the coming years. It is also believed that more than 4 million Dutch players are playing such games.
Kansspelautoriteit has expressed concerns that activities of this type could trivialize playing games for real money. Moreover, it is believed that players may not be always aware that they have switched from playing social games to engaging in a gambling activity of one form or another. As a result, they may be at serious risk of developing problem gambling behavior and even gambling addiction, the Dutch gambling regulator has pointed out in a recent statement on the matter.
The authority supported its concerns with a study conducted by US research firm SuperData Research. The report showed that half of all participants aged under 24 switched from social games to online gambling in the period between October 2016 and January 2017.
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