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Loot boxes should be called gambling, UK House of Lords says – will it affect FIFA Ultimate Team?

(Image credit: Blizzard)

The UK's House of Lords has published a recommendation that loot boxes in games should be brought "within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation" as part of a wider report on gambling harm. 

The specific section of the House of Lords report on loot boxes can be found here, but the key takeaway is this: "We recommend that Ministers should make regulations under section 6(6) of the Gambling Act 2005 specifying that loot boxes and any other similar games are games of chance, without waiting for the Government’s wider review of the Gambling Act". 

An accompanying statement more clearly says the following: "The Government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation."

The BBC quotes committee chairman Lord Grade as saying the report's recommendations "could be enacted today" without the need for legislation. 

The report touches upon Belgium's move to ban loot boxes in April 2018. Back in April of this year, trade body PEGI said that publishers would provide more specific descriptions of in-game purchases on the boxes of games. 

Loot boxes in games have been a hot-button issue for years, now, particularly since the release of Star Wars: Battlefront 2. That game eventually had its premium loot box elements revamped.

What does it mean for FIFA and other games?

(Image credit: EA)

It's unclear exactly what effect the proposed change would have on the likes of FIFA Ultimate Team in the UK, for example, where opening player packs is part of the game (EA discloses pack probabilities ahead of purchases). Some packs can be bought with FIFA Points paid for with real money.

A separate September 2019 report from the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee discusses a scenario where the UK follows the way other countries handle loot boxes that were ultimately classified as gambling, though, which hints at what regulation could like.

"The experiences of other regulators also indicates what could happen if loot boxes were determined to be gambling under UK law. We heard that if legislation was changed, any games company using loot boxes would need to obtain an operating licence, which are accompanied by a range of regulations around transparency, duty of care and age restrictions."

The report says, though, that based on Belgium's prior ruling, it's more likely that such mechanics would simply be withdrawn from games.

EA's Kerry Hopkins previously characterized FIFA's Ultimate Team packs as 'surprise mechanics' rather than loot boxes."They aren’t gambling and we disagree that there’s evidence that shows they lead to gambling," Hopkins said.

That report hasn't received a response from the UK government yet.