The CEO of Electronic Arts (EA) has made a stand against European regulators after they declared that certain game loot boxes had violated gambling laws.
EA doesn’t agree with Europe
The games that authorities have questioned are FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The Dutch Gambling Authority (DGA) and the Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) have called for the loot boxes in these games to be removed.
EA is one company that has been asked to remove the offending game items, with a fine of up to £1.4m ($1.9m) threatened if the organization fails to do so. However, Andrew Wilson, the CEO of EA, says he doesn’t believe that they constitute gambling.
“We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling, firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” Wilson said in a report from The Sun.
Despite this, European regulators are calling for changes to be made to ensure that children aren’t exposed to the idea of gambling, which could lead to addictive gambling behaviors later in life.
Netherlands, Belgium take stands
The DGA was the first European authority to question loot boxes in popular online games. In April, it was reported that a DGA investigation of 10 games found that four of them had violated Dutch gambling laws. As a result, the gambling authority gave the game developers eight weeks to fix illegal in-game loot boxes or face a fine. Notably, the findings didn’t list which games were in question.
Marja Appelman, director of the Dutch Gambling Authority, said of the loot boxes that “they are designed as gambling games are designed, with the feeling that you have almost won”.
Taking a leaf out of the DGA’s book, the BGC subsequently undertook its own investigation last month and found that, of the four it looked at, three violated Belgium gambling regulations. These were Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Star Wars Battlefront II was found not to be in violation of gaming laws.
Koen Geens, the minister of justice for Belgium, who requested the investigation, said “mixing games and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health”.
The minister is expected to enter into conversations with game developers, operators, and the Belgium Gaming Commission to determine who should be held responsible for removing the loot boxes. By doing so, Geens is hopeful that this will remove the threat games poses to individuals and families.
UKGC doesn’t follow suit
Interestingly, even though the DGA and the BGC are taking proactive steps to removing loot boxes and the potential threat they pose, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) isn’t so keen to follow suit.
In December, Tim Miller, the executive director of the UKGC, made the argument that loot boxes aren’t gambling because they can’t be cashed out.
“In relation to loot boxes specifically, the key thing here is the loot boxes we’ve seen, none of them contain a facility to be able to cash out within the game itself, and that’s really the key thing which is preventing them from crossing that line into becoming gambling,” he said.