Netherlands Gaming Authority Strikes at Loot Boxes

The stories begins with the reddit community exploding over loot boxes in EA Games’ Battlefront II.  The community caught the attention of law makers and government agencies world wide.  Perhaps the most focused group they turned was the Netherlands Gaming Commission.  In mid November of 2017 they announced they would review if, in-game loot boxes where gambling and subject to regulation under law, and went pretty silent.dutch-flag

April 10, 2018 the gaming commission stunned the gaming world with its report.  The report was a scientific study using many metrics of gambling, and professional psychologists, to clearly rule if a game violated gambling laws, and had gambling addiction dangers.

The report more than once highlighted their current rules that winnings be transferable outside the venue with real world monetary value, and also in back handed way, restated their mission to limit gambling addiction on high risk people.  I will say why this is back handed a little further in, but it is important that they included it.  It is important to note also, they made it clear, they where only investigating loot boxes in these games and their mechanisms and psychology.

The study focused on ten (unnamed) popular games.  Game one looks very much like ‘Counter Strike: Global Offensive’?  It found 4 games in complete violation of their laws since there existed an after market to sell or trade the winnings from loot boxes.  One of these games had a PEGI rating of 3! They also stated that there is no way under current law in the Netherlands for these games to obtain legal permit, as no permit exist for such gambling.

The press release indicated that from June 20th, 2018 on, the gaming commission will enforce their gambling laws on these platforms as they see fit under the law.  The whispers around the EU indicate that the Dutch are trying to work with the EU to unify a standard approach to gambling and these most recent matters.  Just like the US has states with its own gambling laws, so do the various countries in the EU.

Now what of the remaining 6, one of which has a PEGI rating of 7?  Because they do not have an after market for trading winnings, there exists no law that can regulate them as gambling in the Netherlands.  Here comes the really big BUT.  But remember that back handed reference to their mission to prevent and reduce gambling addiction?  The other 6 games, although not “legally” gambling at the moment, had gambling addiction triggers.

You must also remember that they lasered in on the loot boxes.  Anybody slightly initiated into game development knows, the games are designed to compel player to play and be addicted.   These tactics are not restricted to loot boxes, its just that games with loot boxes use all the tricks, to compel to purchase.  The study’s findings narrow focus was on the loot box experience, as it should have been.  It never publicly stated opinion on the other psychological manipulation getting a player to open one in the first place.  The gaming commission employed psychologist who no doubt pointed it out during various points of interacting with the commission.  What is remaining to be seen is does the gaming commission look further into the gaming addiction components, or stop short at the loot boxes as they pertain to existing laws?  Do they expand their mandate to include gambling triggers that do not fit the current law as gambling?

In regards to the remaining 6 games studied, the Netherlands Gaming Commission included this in their April press release;

  “The Netherlands Gaming Authority therefore calls on providers of this type of loot box to remove the addiction-sensitive elements (‘almost winning’ effects, visual effects, ability to keep opening loot boxes quickly one after the other and suchlike) from the games and to implement measures to exclude vulnerable groups or to demonstrate that the loot boxes on offer are harmless.”









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