Loot boxes in video games are the true definition of the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” After all, to video game makers, loot boxes represent an opportunity to boost revenue while giving players a chance to boost their fortunes in the game. To gambling regulators, however, loot boxes look more like a gateway drug that leads children down the path to problem gambling.

So who’s right in this situation?

Governments across the planet have been debating this issue for the past few years and no clear consensus has emerged. In Australia, where operators of all sorts work in a heavily regulated environment, loot boxes are considered to be gambling just like pulling the handle on a pokie is considered gambling. In France, players of all ages can buy loot boxes to their heart’s content. And now loot box fans can add Ireland to the list of countries that are cool with them.

In a recent address to the Seanad, David Stanton of the Department of Justice pointedly said that loot boxes are not gambling saying, “Where a game offers the possibility of placing a bet or the taking of risk for financial reward within the game, then, in my view it must be licensed as a gambling product…However, it should be understood, that if a game offers in-game purchases – be they loot boxes, skins, etc. – which are promoted to gamers as increasing their chances of success, such purchases are essentially a commercial or e-commerce activity. This activity would fall within normal consumer law.”

Stanton’s words are music to the ears of Irish video game fans who know that many big name video game makers, such as EA, won’t sell their products in countries that don’t allow loot boxes.


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