The UK Gambling Commission informed the MPs that it does not consider FIFA video game packs and loot boxes as gambling, and that is why it does not currently oversee the purchases of in-game content and features.
According to the UK watchdog, there is no official way to monetize whatever you win in the game, and for it to fall under gambling, it has to have a monetary value.
In the FIFA video game, players, the majority of them underage, can purchase in-game content in packs, but discover its content only after they realize the payment. The loot boxes also contain some bonus in the form of weapons or costumes that are actually revealed upon the purchase.
There were complaints by dozens of parents recorded stating that their children were spending hundreds of pounds on these FIFA packs. These parents criticised the purchase process as a form of gambling due to the element of surprise and chance that tempts their children to buy again and see whether they would get a different result, one that they would want.
Neil McArthur admitted that there were some major concerns around underage players having access to video games where elements of chance existed. Addressing the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee, McArthur said that there were other examples of things that felt and looked like gambling that the actual legislation said they were not. Prize competitions were one example but considering they have free entry or free play they were not considered gambling, maybe a lot like a lottery, though.
However, although loot box prizes have no official monetary value, as explained by the UK Gambling Commission, there have been some unauthorised third-party sites that sell and buy these in-game contents using virtual currencies, therefore, gamble the virtual content they acquire with their purchase. This is a form of gambling, indeed, called skin betting.
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UKGC’s Programme Director Brad Enright admitted that FIFA’s games publisher EA has been facing a constant battle against unauthorised markets. He added that this was inevitable, due to the nature of these packs.
However, Enright said that the Commission told the video games industry that it wasn’t enough to say they didn’t want that happening. The Commission asked them, even though the watchdog could see that they have T&Cs, what were they doing to apply them? Nevertheless, he added that it was not the UKGC’s job to monitor the internet on behalf of the video games industry. The industry had to do more to stop third-party unauthorized markets from appearing, and in return, stop underage players from being exposed to any sort of gambling whatsoever.