International regulators join forces over gambling concerns in video games Luke Haward, CDC Gaming Reports · September 22, 2018 at 2:54 pm A group of 15 European regulators, along with a regulator from Washington State, released a statement recently concerning loot boxes and other forms of in-game wagering that indicates a concerted effort to protect children from being exposed to gambling in video games marketed to them. Right now, the coalition’s primary focus is loot boxes, but the statement seems to indicate that it intends to eventually go much further than that. The group’s statement is strongly worded:“We share a number of common principles including the need for gambling to be regulated to ensure high standards of integrity, fairness and consumer protection, in particular in relation to children…we are increasingly concerned with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming. Concerns in this area have manifested themselves in controversies relating to skin betting, loot boxes, social casino gaming and the use of gambling themed content within video games available to children…Each gambling regulator will of course reserve the right to use instruments of enforcement given by its national gambling regulatory framework. We will also work closely with our consumer protection enforcement authorities.” That last phrase belies the coalition’s focus on analysis and its intent to act as an advisor to the gaming industry, but it’s a bit of saber-rattling, as well. EA Games dropped $3 billion in stock value at the end of last year after it became the focus of some controversy over microtransactions built into Battlefront 2. This declaration comes at a time when public dissatisfaction with microtransactions and loot boxes are at an all-time high. It’s fair to assume that this will feature heavily in the group’s upcoming analysis of the industry. As can be seen above, however, there are a number of issues being considered. There are likely to be new, unpredictable features of the games industry that emerge in the coming years which may also become causes of concern, as both the hardware and the games developed evolve. Such a collaboration across jurisdictions is likely to be quite complex, but the action is welcome nonetheless, especially as UK Gambling Commission CEO Neil McArthur indicated that protecting children is, at the moment, the primary objective. “We want parents to be aware of the risks and to talk to their children about how to stay safe online,” McArthur said in a statement. “Unlicensed websites offering skins betting can pop up at any time and children could be gambling with money intended for computer game products.” The coalition’s challenge is made tougher by the need to police products across multiple jurisdictions and by the existence of numerous third parties working to transform a game feature into a means of gambling, as we’ve seen with skins betting. There also isn’t yet a consensus about whether or not loot boxes constitute gambling. Still, the regulators will surely be working hard to ensure that games publishers are responsible about setting limits on how third-party operators are able to manipulate their game content.