Belgium says video game loot boxes are considered criminal gambling

Keshav Bhat

According to a new statement from Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens, Belgium is now defining video game loot boxes a form of criminal gambling and developers of games that have systems that violate their laws can face fines and prison sentences if the loot box systems are not removed from the game.

So far, the Belgium government’s investigation has only spanned four games: Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and FIFA 18. The new legislation indicates that Overwatch, CSGO, and FIFA 18 are in violation of the law, while EA has made enough changes to Star Wars Battlefront II’s loot system to no longer consider it in violation of the law.

“Paying loot boxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of skill,” Gaming Commission Director Peter Naessens added in a statement. “Players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling are applied.”

The criteria that the Belgian government used to evaluate the games were:

  • Emotional profit forecast: uncertainty loot box is linked to profit forecast;
  • A player may think that the purchase of a loot box has an advantage, which is not always the case
  • Confusion of fiction and reality: well-known real persons promote the most expensive loot boxes;
  • Use your own coin system: for a real amount, players can buy in-game coins;
  • Apparently infinite methods to deposit money on player accounts;
  • Hide from the random generator or at least its opacity.

According to the new statement, “the games with paid loot boxes, as currently offered in our country, are therefore in violation of the gaming legislation and can be dealt with under criminal law. The loot boxes must therefore also be removed. If that does not happen, the operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros.”

Call of Duty was not investigated, as of now, in the Belgium government’s initial study of loot boxes influence in video games. Some aspects of Call of Duty’s loot box systems do seem to violate some of the conditions that the new Belgium legislation sets forth, but no indication as of now from Belgium government if they are expanding their review to other games. For example, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s loot box system is the most ‘pay to win’ system in the Call of Duty franchise, locking all weapons behind the drops, without revealing the chances of getting items to players. Players can earn access to drops via playing the game or by purchasing in-game currency.

Following Star Wars Battlefront II’s debacle in November, many countries — including the US — has been evaluating new laws and requirements to set forth to avoid gambling addiction for kids playing these video games.

SOURCEs: Ars Techncia via Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens