Thursday 12 September 2019 12:01 am

MPs call for regulation of video game ‘loot boxes’ amid gambling concerns

The government is facing calls to regulate so-called loot boxes in video games and ban their sale to children amid growing concern they are harming players.

Loot boxes, which refer to in-game purchases that award players random items or modifications, have become increasingly prevalent in console and mobile games in recent years.

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But in a report published today, MPs warned the bonus packages could cause harm for problem gamblers and children.

The report, compiled by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, called on video game companies to take greater responsibility for the welfare of their users and urged social media firms to introduce more effective age verification tools.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm,” said DCMS committee chair Damian Collins. “Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up.”

The committee said loot boxes should be regulated under existing gambling law, and called for a more effective system for keeping children off age-restricted platforms and games.

Figures released last month by the Safer Online Gambling Group revealed children in the UK spend roughly £270m each year on loot boxes and other in-game purchases.

The report comes as part of a wider government crackdown on online harms, and the committee has previously called for a new regulator to oversee tech firms.

This regulator should also be given power to take action regarding online games as it looks to reduce harm caused by addictive and immersive technology, the committee said.

MPs also accused representatives from the games industry of being “wilfully obtuse” in answering questions about patterns of play, and said both they and social media executives “demonstrated a lack of honesty and transparency”, raising questions about what they had to hide.

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Dr Jo Twist, chief executive of gaming industry body UK Interactive Entertainment, said: “The video games industry has always, and will continue to, put the welfare of players at the heart of what we do.

“We will review these recommendations with utmost seriousness and consult with the industry on how we demonstrate further our commitment to player safety – especially concerning minors and vulnerable people.”

Main image credit: Getty