ESRB Says Buying 'Loot Boxes' Is Not Gambling Despite Huge Similarities

Loot Boxes Aren't Gambling According to ESRB

The ESRB has made up its mind on the issue and will not be classifying loot boxes as gambling anytime soon.

This is good news for developers wishing to continue implementing loot boxes, as a "real gambling" classification would be accompanied by an Adults Only (AO) rating.

In a statement offered to Wccftech, Pan-European Game Information operations director Dirk Bosmans explained that the ratings board is more concerned with digital acts of gambling that simulate or teach real-life gambling methods than the sale of chance-based goodie bags.

This has prompted a spokesperson for the board to inform Kotaku that the "ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling", and that "While there's an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don't want)".

Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others. Mobile games often use this model: they provide a free basic game but in order to have a better experience and unlock more items, the player must pay for boxes of items - a model known as "freemium" play. The topic came to a head with the recent Shadow of War loot box controversy, and more recently with Battlefront II's in-game loot boxes which serve as the gatekeepers for all progress in the game.

"So I can start a casino in my house, and as long as I give someone a cheap pendant or something after every round it's not technically gambling?"

Concerns will still be there that loot boxes are synonymous with gambling.

Games which include a loot box element need a gambling license, and the industry is closely regulated. ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) aka the organization that rates video games depending on how offensive and gory they may be, stated that as they see it loot boxes are not considered gambling.

Skin gambling is not prohibited as a betting activity and loot boxes can be traded within video games. Loot boxes "are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant United Kingdom regulations", she said. You can spend real money on the boxes. It might even be similar to what happened when parents found out about their kids being targeted by the Counter-Strike gambling sites and filed a class action lawsuit against the CS:GO gambling ring owners - while also contacting the Washington State Gambling Commissioner to have them look into Valve's practices of supporting third-party loot box gambling.

The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017.

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