A popular gambling support charity has warned that video game loot boxes “normalise gambling” for children just as Belgium enforces new rules banning them from the country.
BeGambleAware has claimed that more than one in ten British children are “effectively gambling” due to video game loot boxes, rewards in video games that contain items hidden from view until after they have been won or purchased.
The charity’s comments come after Blizzard, the game developer behind Overwatch, pulled them from sale in Belgium to comply with the country’s ruling that they are “inappropriate” for children.
Gaming regulators in Belgium ruled in April that loot boxes constituted as gambling, prompting Activision and Blizzard this month to take measures to “prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money”.
The company revealed the news in an announcement on the game’s online forum, writing: “While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law.”
A spokesperson for the UK Gambling Commission told The Sun: “The playing of a game for the chance of a prize of money/money’s worth is gambling under UK law… so, where in-game items that are derived from loot boxes can be readily exchanged for cash, the loot boxes themselves are likely to fall within the definition of gambling.”
They added: “The greater the availability, scale and sophistication of secondary markets where the in-game items can be sold the stronger the case becomes.”
Meanwhile, BeGambleAware urged further action, saying: “We all share a responsibility to protect children from gambling-related harms and this includes the companies which profit from video games.”
Anyone concerned that their children may be gambling or anyone who thinks they or a loved one may be struggling with a gambling addiction can find help and information on our gambling support page.