Video game loot boxes are now considered criminal gambling in Belgium

A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in , , and as meeting the criteria for that “game of chance” definition: i.e., “there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game.” The Commission also looked at and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it “no longer technically forms a game of chance.

Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an “emotional profit forecast” of randomized goods, where players “buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be.” The fact that these games don’t disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said.

The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country’s gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to €800,000 and five years in prison, which can be doubled if “minors are involved.” But Geens says he wants to start a “dialogue” with loot box providers to “see who should take responsibility where.”

“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.”

Belgium was one of the first European countries to publicly turn its attention to loot boxes following the controversy surrounding . The country launched its investigation of the practice back in November, when Geens said he was seeking to ban the practice throughout Europe.

Belgium’s decision follows on a similar finding in the Netherlands, which specifically called out loot boxes in , , , and for illegal gambling activities. In the United States, legislators in Hawaii, Washington state, and the US Senate continue to look into loot box regulations, even as industry bodies like the Entertainment Software Rating Board downplay the need for such actions.

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Kyle Orland Kyle is the Senior Gaming Editor at Ars Technica, specializing in video game hardware and software. He has journalism and computer science degrees from University of Maryland. He is based in the Washington, DC area.
Email[email protected]//Twitter@KyleOrl
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