Belgium says loot crates are gambling


Are they exchanging money for it? Then yes.

This isn’t complicated. An exchange of money for a random return is gambling. If there’s no money, or the return is fixed, it’s not.


So by your definition, buying a fortune cookie is gambling. That’s ridiculous.


Australia getting into it.


Of course not. A) there isn’t typically an exchange of money, and B) the return is the cookie.

Your hypothetical involved the product - i.e., the return - being a piece of paper with random writing on it, for which the customer is paying money. That’s gambling.

But I see no point in continuing this conversation. I’ve already expressed a very simple, easily applied litmus test for what meets a practical, real world definition of gambling multiple times now. Consult it for yourself.


First of all, there is always an exchange of money for a fortune cookie, even if it isn’t spelled out on the receipt. You can’t just walk into a restaurant and walk out with a box of free fortune cookies. You pay for them whether you realize it or not.

I mean, if EA offered 10 “free” loot boxes after you pay $10 to watch their promotional video, would you suddenly reconsider your stance?

Likewise, it’s easy to combine a predictable return with a random return. EA could offer a specific digital reward inside their loot box, in addition to the usual rewards. Maybe free access to a different promotional video! How would that change anything?

Well, perhaps it’s easily applied. But it also easily causes lots of unintended consequences, which I’ve also expressed multiple times now.


Seems someone created a website with a color coded warning system.


I know, I am just having a very bad few days. Apologies.

I agree though, in reality almost everything in life is a gamble of some sort, but obviously not everything should be regulated.


That site says ESO is “designed in such a way as to make it generally unviable, through difficulty spikes or timesinks, to play the game, without paying for micro-transactions”. That’s not correct.


Other parts of Australia say different (as they have different laws):


“Our starting point in deciding our position with any product is to look closely at whether or not it falls under UK gambling law. The definition of what is legally classed as gambling is set by Parliament rather than by us,” Miller wrote. “Our role is to apply that definition to activities that we see and any changes to that definition need to be made by Parliament.”

“A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired ‘via a game of chance’ can be considered money or money’s worth. In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in.”


Whether it’s virtual value or actual value, it’s still value. To the human brain, there is no difference.


There are a lot of things with unpredictable intangible value, and in nearly all cases it would be a mistake to regulate them.

Perhaps loot boxes are the exception. If so, then write a law that narrowly targets loot boxes instead of trying to change the legal definition of gambling.


My point is that maybe we should judge them based on the psychological effect, not on whether the value is “real” or “virtual”. The difference is especially nebulous among children, who don’t work and tend not to have large sums of money of their own, and therefore aren’t equipped to act responsibly.


Other examples include the company store or company town, which were based on script or vouchers rather than “real money”.


Writing a law that is aimed at a psychological effect sounds like an exercise in futility. We don’t even try to regulate the “psychological effect” of real gambling. Nothing stops a casino from fully exploiting gambling addicts.

And it’s especially futile because there are already regulations in place aimed at protecting minors from poor financial decisions. Preying on children is hardly a new thing. For example:

The case, which applies across the US, centers around a piece of California legislation called the Family Code, which is designed to shield children from their lack of judgment and prevent companies from exploiting their immaturity. The code states that any contracts with minors can be voided by the minor at any time before they reach the age of 18.

And by “voided”, they mean “refunded”.

Yes, but the value of a voucher is not intangible, because it can be exchanged for something of known value and resold. Nothing in a loot box can be redeemed for a tangible good.

Relatedly: in the 1940s, do-gooders tried to outlaw pinball machines because of their effects on children. Their arguments were very similar to what is being presented here, pinball was addictive, expensive, with random rewards of “free balls” to keep kids hooked.

Unfortunately, pinball machine operators would exchange those “free balls” for money, and that was enough to get them outlawed and destroyed by the thousands. The gaming industry learned their lesson, which is why such a hard line is drawn on “cashing out.”


Psychologists may not be best equipped to write or enforce legislation, and legislators may not be best equipped to do psychology. But I still think gambling is a state of mind more than it is anything else.

I’m pretty sure these companies would punish people who competed with their stores by trading vouchers back and forth for real money.


Well, ok. And some have argued that adultery is a state of mind more than anything else. Fortunately the law is more pragmatic.

That’s not the point. You could accumulate 100,000 McVouchers, trade them in for 100,000 bars of McSoap, walk away from McTown forever, and sell those bars for a cool $100,000. That establishes the value of a McVoucher at $1. Whether McCorporation is unhappy about this is irrelevant, because you’re rich and long gone and there’s nothing they can do about it.


Ok that’s a cunning plan, I’m in!


If your family still lived in said company town, you might think twice about “cashing out” like this, especially considering the history of violence and oppression surrounding the practice.

Anyway, if the gambling occurs in-game with no way to cash in or cash out using real money (e.g. Gwent in Witcher 3), I have no problem with it. If you can cash in (e.g. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game) and can win/loose/trade/redeem items for other stuff (even for virtual items), I take issue with it. Basically, if you can cash in with real money at the game publisher’s store, then there clearly is a or some monetary value to the items, even if the dollar value is hard or beyond our means to calculate.


When a court considers the value of something, it is assumed everyone is obeying the law.

On the contrary, if you can’t provide a reasonable estimate for what something would sell for, then it has no monetary value. Even if you paid a lot of money for it.

I might pay $5 for an ice cream cone, but there’s no way I can sell it. Once in my hand, its monetary value immediately depreciated to zero.

Classic example is a diamond ring. You might pay $10000 for one. What do you think its value is? When you try to sell it, you’ll learn the awful truth.