Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling, New Zealand Says

Loot boxes do not meet the legal definition of gambling in New Zealand.

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Loot boxes do not constitute gambling, according to New Zealand's gambling regulation group. The Gambling Compliance department of its Department of Internal Affairs told Gamasutra this week that "the Department is of the view that loot boxes do not meet the legal definition of gambling."

In a statement, the DIA's Trish Millward said she is aware of the international discussion around loot boxes in video games in the wake of the controversy surrounding Star Wars: Battlefront II. The reasons loot boxes do not meet the legal definition of gambling, she said, is because "gamers do not purchase loot boxes seeking to win money or something that can be converted into money."

Spending real money to buy a loot box that only gives you a chance to get something may "appear to be gambling," Millward admitted, but they do not meet the legal definition. As such, the DIA "has no ability to regulate the activity under the Gambling Act 2003.

Millward ended her note by saying the DIA will continue to monitor the discussion around loot boxes in gaming. This is the expected response, given the matter is relatively so new.

New Zealand is just the latest country to weigh in on the topic of loot boxes in gaming, as Belgium is looking into the matter but apparently hasn't made any decisions yet. In Australia, Victoria's gambling regulator said loot boxes do constitute gambling, according to Kotaku. In the United States, a lawmaker in Hawaii wants to ban the sale of games with "gambling mechanisms" to minors. US-based gaming organizations The ESA and ESRB do not believe that loot boxes constitute a form of gambling. For its part, Battlefront II publisher Electronic Arts maintains that loot boxes are not gambling.

Battlefront II's loot boxes contain a random group of items, some of which can affect gameplay, instead of being cosmetic only as is the case in Overwatch. For a period of time, Battlefront II players could spend real money on these loot boxes, which led to the impression by some that Battlefront II was a gambling machine. You can no longer purchase loot boxes with real money in Battlefront II, though EA has said microtransactions will return to the game someday...or not.

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