The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into “addictive and immersive technologies” has called for loot boxed to be banned for children and for in-game spending to be regulated by gambling laws. Those in the gambling business following the inquiry will be sadly familiar with way the cards are falling for the video games sector.
The committee’s chairman Damian Collins MP has argued that the video games industry should make a financial contribution to fund independent research into the long-term effects of gaming:
“Gaming disorder based on excessive and addictive game-play has been recognised by the World Health Organization.”
“It’s time for game companies to use the huge quantities of data they gather about their players to do more to proactively identify vulnerable gamers.”
On the specific topic of loot boxes he argued:
“Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.”
On both of these issues, GBGC has warned that video gaming would be dragged down the same road as gambling.
In January 2018 wrote about loot boxes and their classification as gambling. We speculated:
“In the era of policy by public opinion polls, however, GBGC would not be surprised if they [loot boxes] ended up being either prohibited or required to get some kind of gambling licence.”
Similarly, after attending the esports track at the 2018 Betting on Sports conference last year, GBGC was struck by the naivety at some of the comments made with regard to the emerging sector.
On one panel there was consensus that too much governance would not be good for the development of esports.
GBGC commented on this viewpoint:
“If only that was how governance works. Unfortunately a sector does not really get to decide how much governance is imposed upon it. Once an emerging sector pokes above the parapet, the arrows of governance come flying towards it. QED gambling.”
GBGC also highlighted the “perceived risk of harm” with regard to video gaming:
“The designation of video gaming addiction as a mental health condition, allowing for NHS treatment, means that at the some point the esports sector will be expected to fund treatment, research and charitable help lines. There is already a proposal for a scale to determine how addictive a game is.”
Gambling lost by being unable to get ahead of the regulatory game. The same process is now happening to video gaming. The sector has to shake off denial and act fast.