The Senate Inquiry Into Loot Boxes Will Report Back Today

After being delayed twice to allow for more evidence, the federal inquiry into loot boxes will table their findings this afternoon, Kotaku Australia understands.

Update #2: Here's the report:

Senate Inquiry Calls For 'Comprehensive Review' Of Loot Boxes

The Senate inquiry into "gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items" - otherwise known as the loot box inquiry - has tabled its report to Parliament, recommending that the Federal Government undertake a "comprehensive review of loot boxes in video games".

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Update (1600 AEDT): The loot box report is still scheduled to be tabled in the Senate today, Kotaku Australia understands, although its publication is not expected until later tonight. The original story follows below.

The upper house inquiry came as a surprise to local gamers earlier this year, with Labor and the Coalition surprising the Greens by supporting a motion from Greens Senator Steele-John in the Senate in late June. Liberal senator James McGrath stood up and said that "loot boxes in video games raise issues that are worthy of close examination", and mentioned that Communications Minister Mitch Fifield had raised the issue of loot boxes.

Senator Anthony Chisholm then announced Labor's support, and a day later the committee inquiry into microtransactions and loot boxes was carried on the voices. Public submissions started following in shortly thereafter, along with a wealth of opinions from academics and government representatives.

The Major Responses So Far Into The Senate Loot Box Inquiry

The Senate inquiry into loot boxes isn't due to report back until mid-September. Ahead of their deliberations, members of industry, academia and the public have made submissions to the panel. Here's what they had to say.

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Representatives of the gaming industry argued that publishers, developers and platforms "typically do not allow loot boxes, virtual items or game points" to be traded, gambled or sold on other markets, and they echoed the legislative view aired earlier in the year that loot boxes were not considered a form of gambling. Other bodies took a different tack: the Australian Institute of Family Studies recommended banning "microtransactions for chance-based items in online games available in Australia", and Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice said "it cannot be assumed" that the market would not prevent "more insidious uses of gaming microtransactions that resemble gambling" going forward.

"Game developers are, after all, increasingly reliant on the use of micro-transactions to monetise gameplay and thus fund both the initial development of the game and the development of additional downloadable content to keep the game fresh and exciting," the QLD Attorney-General's submission said.

The deputy secretary of Liquor Gaming & Racing NSW outlined a compromise between those two approaches, suggesting "investigating opportunities by the Classification Board" to offer more information through the classification system, and noted that they were "concerned" about the risk of gambling becoming normalised through minors "from chance-based items such as loot boxes".

The Victorian minister for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Marlene Kairouz, added that Victoria "strong supports" federal action. "More stringent classification of video games that include loot boxes or similar items would better recognise the potential harm that can arise from the convergence of gaming and gambling and the consequent normalisation of gambling," the minister said in her submission.

NSW And Victoria Push For Loot Boxes To Be Classified

With just under a month until the Senate inquiry into "gaming microtransactions for chance-based items" - loot boxes and such - reports back, more submissions to the inquiry have been made public. Two of those submissions have come from the Victorian Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, as well as the NSW Government's deputy secretary of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, and both submissions are encouraging an update to the classification guidelines to recognise loot boxes.

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The inquiry was due to report back by September 17, but was delayed by a month after a public inquiry where Dr. David Zendle presented the findings of an online study investigating the impact and effect of loot boxes. The committee then delayed the report's release by another month, allowing for more submissions and filings, including supplementary information from the Netherlands Gambling Authority.


Comments

    And result in absolutely nothing because career politicians only care about what keeps them in power.

      History has clearly demonstrated that if there is one industry that is still incapable of buying political favour in this country it's the games industry.

        True... but the gambling industry and telcos do, and neither have said anything publicly about lootboxes effect on their client bases 2 delays is a tough thing to measure, they got sone damning evidence that told them banning then is best... but the common solution is "classification" which seens a mute response.

          Problem with banning them outright is the scope. The criteria would either be too strict, and games that clearly have lootboxes get through, or too broad so others that arent what people want to block get banned.

          If the contents of the box must be tradeable for example, that doesnt help. They just go back to being non-tradeable, and the gambling nature goes on. Any criteria they might come up with has similar loopholes that either let the gambling go on, or catch games you wouldnt expect.

          I just worry that as politicians they'll get it wrong, and after decades of gamers lobbying for better classifications finally getting a result, we end up back with even worse rules.

      Exactly. Timing's everything though - we've got a highly contentious federal election looming: 6 months at the latest. I'm guessing that if 2GB or the 'won't someone please think of the children' crowd jump on board in the meantime, they'll have to do something.

      (well, I suppose they could just say they were going to do something, and then do either nothing at all, or the exact opposite of what they promised....)

      Last edited 27/11/18 2:33 pm

    Gonna try commenting for a third time to see if it goes through.

    The government that doesn't care about the absurd amount of pokie machines in clubs and bars, or care about the sheer volume of betting company advertisements on TV, suddenly cares about gambling in video games?

    OK then.

      Places you need to be 18 to enter vs video games kids play?

      Not that pokies aren't morally repugnant.. but there is no comparison to video games.

        You don't need to be 18 to walk past the pokie room in an rsl, leagues club, or a hotel bistro. Or be 18 to watch the news or your favourite rugby league team play on TV (both can and are sponsored by betting companies).

        Point is it's made extremely and unabashedly visible, and they think tagging "gamble responsibly" after a betting odds on the NRL "advertisement" moments before the sports report on the news makes it 100% OK.

        I worked in a pub as a bus boy when I was 16.

      Thats approved and licensed, and a source of taxation... even then when gambling rules are broken the regulators and politicians do come down hard on them.

      Lootboxes have not formal approval, skirt and cross the line of a few consumer protection laws that make it a jurisdictional nightmare, and DONT PAY TAXES IN AUSTRALIA.

      Thats a Key point to add to the debate, most microtransactions are not taxed in Australia due to offshore servers or the "credit" is bought from multintionals tgat avoid taxes like Apple Google Sony Microsoft who pay mostly foriegn developers/publishers... there is no taxes or local industry to protect. I think they should swing hard make it criminal as per unlicensed offshore gambling.

      But they DO care about poker machines and gambling ads. - because they make so much tax money from them.

    Three points in favour of them doing something if the report mentions actions:
    1) Unlike regular gambling they don't take as big a slice
    2) Protecting kids sells well in papers
    3) The video game industry is not big enough in Australia to do anything damaging to the government if they are unhappy

      1b) Australua is not even getting the normal slice either, microtransactions usually avoid even paying local taxes cause credits are bought from multinationals with history of tax evasion. Apple Google Sony Microsoft EA Ubisoft Activision.

      4) important state and federal elections looming

    Need to Legalise it first, then the politicians will understand gaming.
    Give them a dose of green and new policies can be seen!

      "You guys all have phones right?" I think every polly knows the evil of mobile phone games... we aint talking about loot boxes in AAA games... I think mobile titles are were its getting criminally negligent!

    3/2 odds they delay release.

      There are far greater priorities at hand before Christmas, it's true. Firstly, they gotta figure out how to shoot down the energy policy they created, now that it's been adopted by their enemies. And there's Dixers to ask, dontcherknow! Fragile egos need boosting in response to bad polling.

      Last edited 27/11/18 1:56 pm

      And it will cost you to download it

    It's a shame everyone uses overwatch's loot boxes as the poster child of the issue, where I find overwatch is the fairest of all microtransaction RNG systems, being all cosmetic and easy to get without spending money. They need to use games using MTX that effect core gameplay mechanics, like anything coming out of asia or EA. Kids are far more likely to roll the bones to get an advantage.

      I disagree... I think Overwatch is one of the worst offenders not cause its malicious, but because the game use manipulative internal marketing and psycological hooks straight from the casino industry, as well as imposes artificial values on items... cause you cant purchase skins directly, you have to play with lootboxes and players cant sidestep them.

      A dedicated player can spend over $50 to $100 a season on loot boxes... thats $500 to $1000 on cosmetics alone. Thats manipulative and worse its excusable by fans who deserve better.

      They were also one of the earliest toes in the water for the trend.

      They were also one of the earliest toes in the water for the trend.

      Even if they are using loot boxes for cosmetics, Blizzard is still using the same psychological manipulation as other developers. While the company might have more good will than others, they're still using the same shady business practices.

      "easy to get without spending money" provided you don't have a day job or family :P If I want to get all the items I usually want via grinding boxes it takes a long long time. Which I don't usually have

    All that is guaranteed, is that if anything actually gets banned, they'll go and ban the wrong thing(s).

    I get why this is being looked into in video games but what about physical toys aimed at younger ages such as hatchimals and shopkins. Isn’t the ‘chance’ to open a physical package that contains a rare item the exact same thing as loot boxes but in a physical form?

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