Belgium’s Gaming Commission has decided that devices in three video games encourage children to gamble. The games industry doesn’t need them

Yesterday, the Belgian minister of justice, Koen Greens, announced the result of an investigation that the country’s Gaming Commission conducted into video game “loot boxes”, a mechanic that lets players pay real money for a chance at winning virtual items. It found that three popular games – Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Fifa 18 – were in violation of gambling legislation. This is a significant finding, because controversy over loot boxes has been raging for at least six months: are they actually a form of gambling? Worse, are they a form of gambling that is particularly appealing to children?

Belgium’s Gaming Commission has decided that, yes, they are, and the publishers in question should remove loot boxes from their games or face fines. (EA, Blizzard and Valve, publishers of the games in question, did not respond to requests for comment on how they plan to comply.) There might be no financial incentive to buying loot boxes – you never win any money – but they are still a game of chance. “A dialogue with the sector is necessary,” said Groens: “It is often children who come into contact with such systems and we can not allow that.”

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