Yesterday we had comments from a senior analyst at Victoria’s gambling commission on loot boxes. Today, Queensland’s statutory regulator has their turn – and their take on loot boxes is a fraction different.
They’re called the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, and as far they’re concerned, they weren’t really placed to say whether loot boxes constituted gambling.
“Regrettably, as a regulator of legalised gambling in Queensland, I am not in a position to definitively advise whether ‘loot boxes’ or similar video game features would constitute ‘gambling’,” the regulator’s Robert Grimmond replied.
“However, I can confirm that video gaming which provides for ‘loot boxes’ would not fall within the meaning of a gaming machine as defined under the Gaming Machine Act.”
The key difference under the Gaming Machine Act – originally passed in 1991 – is whether loot boxes would qualify as a “gaming machine”.
In Grimmond’s view, and under the legislation, loot boxes would have to allow for users to bet in-game or real world money and receive winnings from that bet.
“In view of the above, I do not consider that ‘loot boxes’ at the cost of real currency would constitute gambling. As such, the OLGR would have no legislative authority to regulate or ban these products.”
Grimmond recommended chasing up the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA), which has powers to oversee and ban certain “interactive gambling services” advertised or provided in Australia. I’ve contacted ACMA for a reply, and I’m still awaiting responses from other developers on the matter.
One developer did get back to me: EA. Curiously, EA referred me onto the Entertainment Software Association. I asked them for their response on the recent news about legislators airing concerns about loot boxes, the response from the VCGLR, and Battlefront 2 being called a “Star Wars themed online casino”.
The ESA’s reply was this:
Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling.
Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision.