Loot Boxes Aren't Gambling, Say French Regulators
But the French gambling authority says the practice isn't entirely innocent either.
The French regulatory body ARJEL has determined that loot boxes in video games do not constitute a form of gambling. However, the government authority did note in a 2017-18 activity report (via Kitgaru) that the issue needs a closer look, and recommended that Europe should come to a consensus on how to treat loot boxes.
ARJEL is specifically an online gambling authority in France, making this issue fall within its purview. It found that loot boxes are not gambling, since the items do not have real-world value. The Netherlands recently reached a different conclusion due to the existence of third-party sellers. ARJEL disagreed, stating that as long as the developer does not participate in the sale and does its diligence in prohibiting resale, it cannot be held legally responsible for it as a gambling platform.
The French regulator stopped short of taking a specific stance on the practice. It rejected loot boxes as a form of online gambling but recognized the problems with introducing chance elements and the risks it could pose to younger players. In particular, it noted that the justification that loot boxes always contain an item does not dispel the risk, since gambling commonly relies on giving players a feeling that they barely missed a jackpot as well.
The call for a unified solution across Europe may be harder than it seems. The Netherlands and Belgium have declared loot boxes to be gambling, while the United Kingdom and New Zealand have disagreed. A report is forthcoming from the Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF).
Loot boxes have been a hot topic among United States lawmakers as well recently, partly thanks to the backlash over Star Wars Battlefront 2. Senators have pushed for an investigation, and one Hawaii state rep called the practice "ridiculously exploitative." EA shuttered the microtransactions in Battlefront 2 for a time, then brought back a revised version refocused on cosmetic items. The company appears burned by the experience and careful about touching that hot stove again, as it announced Battlefield 5 will not have loot boxes at all.