UK Gambling Commission: Loot Boxes are Not a “Licensable Gambling Activity”

Yesterday the UK Gambling Commission determined that loot boxes “where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out” are not a “licensable gambling activity”.

This means that the UK Gambling Commission has joined the ESRB in stating, for a completely separate reason, that loot boxes are not gambling. The ESRB’s reason (paraphrased) is that the player always receives in-game content regardless of whether it’s the thing they wanted.

I think the UK’s reasoning leaves too big of a hole and allows for someone to then push for pokemon, yugioh, baseball, magic the gathering, and so on, cards to be technically gambling, right? I mean, those items definitely have real world monetary value and can definitely be sold separately at a higher monetary value than the “gamble” placed on a $5 booster pack. But that really gets to the crux of this argument. It’s the spirit of the law that matters, not the letter of the law. And the spirit of the law in this case isn’t going to condemn pokemon and MTG to be gambling, just like it won’t win against loot boxes.

I find the entire situation fascinating because it’s putting gaming business models under a microscope. I like watching all sides squirm and present arguments. Regardless of what side you fall on the debate, it’s a great discussion.


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