Ever since 2017’s Star Wars: Battlefront II loot box fiasco, an increasing number of governments have at least considered classifying video game loot boxes as a form of gambling. Despite recent indications to the contrary, however, Ireland is now shying away from labeling them as such.
Irish Legal News reports that Ireland Department of Justice Minister of State David Stanton told the Irish Senate last week that the department, “does not have a role to regulate game developers on how their games work nor, in the offering of in-game purchases.”
Ireland was one of 15 governments earlier this month that signed a declaration from the Gaming Regulators European Forum that described loot boxes as, “blurring of lines between gaming and gambling.”
As Stanton told the Irish Senate, however, that declaration “does not have legal effect.” Still, it reflects concern from gambling authorities about online gaming’s impact.
“Where a game offers the possibility of placing a bet or the taking of risk for financial reward within the game, then, in my view it must be licensed as a gambling product,” Stanton explained.
“However, it should be understood,” continued Stanton, “that if a game offers in-game purchases – be they loot boxes, skins, etc. – which are promoted to gamers as increasing their chances of success, such purchases are essentially a commercial or e-commerce activity. This activity would fall within normal consumer law.”
Stanton, it seems, was not swayed by Belgium Justice Minister Koen Geens calling for a European Union-wide ban on loot boxes earlier this year. Belgium’s loot box crackdown has reportedly led to a criminal investigation with Electronic Arts, which refused to comply with Belgian law. Still, Electronic Arts has stated it wants its loot boxes to be “fair.”
Other publishers have already made in-game changes in reaction to new loot box laws and/or the blowback from gamers. NBA 2K’s version of loot boxes have been adjusted, Dota 2’s boxes have been altered in the Netherlands, and 343 Industries won’t sell loot boxes for cash in Halo Infinite when it releases.
Nick Santangelo is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He loves video games and sports, but not sports video games. Follow him on Twitter.