House of Commons Library

Loot boxes in video games

Published Thursday, December 19, 2019

This Library Paper gives a brief overview of concerns about loot boxes in video games.

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Loot boxes have been defined as “items in video games that may be bought for real-world money, but which provide players with a randomised reward of uncertain value.” They often appear as chests, crates, or card packs.

Concerns have been raised about the “structural and psychological similarities” between loot boxes and gambling and that they can encourage children to gamble and lead to addictive behaviour.

The Gambling Commission has said that the Gambling Act 2005 does not cover loot boxes. It therefore cannot use any of its regulatory powers (such as requiring age verification) to take action. However, the Commission has also said that it is “concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred”.

Reports published in 2019 by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and the Children’s Commissioner have both called for Regulations to be made to extend the 2005 Act to loot boxes.

What next?

A Background Briefing to the Queen’s Speech of 19 December 2019 says that the Government will carry out a review of the Gambling Act, with a particular focus on loot boxes as well as the use of credit cards.




Commons Briefing papers CBP-8498

Author: John Woodhouse

Topic: Gambling

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