The Dutch gaming commissions deemed loot boxes as gambling; they’re a game of chance where you spend real money in hopes of gaining a sought-after item. After deliberation and various public statements, the Dutch gaming commissions deemed loot boxes as illegal, and gave publishers up until June 20th to remove them or replace their mechanisms in games such as Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, FIFA and DOTA 2. Belgium’s gaming commission reached the same conclusion as the Netherlands, prohibiting games sold in the country from using loot boxes without a betting license.
According to the eSports Observer, Valve has barred players in the Netherlands from trading on the Steam marketplace or accessing the item boxes for games such as DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Game reviewer and Techraptor contributor, Mellow_Online1, posted up a message from Steam indicating that they would be closing off access to the loot boxes in the aforementioned games for Dutch players.
So Steam community markets for both CS:GO and Dota 2 have been banned for Dutch players due to a threat Valve received from the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit alleging the items infringe on both the Dutch Gaming and Dutch Betting acts, making inferences to loot box mechanics. pic.twitter.com/mxWJKXtFoi
— Mellow_Online1 (@MellowOnline1) June 20, 2018
If you’re unable to read the tweet, it states…
“In May, we received two letters from Dutch Kansspelautoriteit, stating that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 contain ‘loot boxes’ that violate the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act. The Kansspelautoriteit accusation is different from how other countries think about loot boxes, so we hired Dutch legal counsel, look at the recent Study into Loot Boxes published by the Kansspelautoriteit, and learned more about Dutch law. We still don’t understand or agree with the Kansspelautoriteit’s legal conclusion, and we’ve responded to explain more about CS: GO and Dota 2.
“In the meantime, we have a threat from the Kansspelautoriteit to prosecute Valve if we don’t implement a remedy by June 20. The letters don’t tell us how to do that, but the study into Loot Boxes does contain one rather simplistic statement:
‘Loot boxes contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are transferable. Loot boxes do not contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are not transferable.’
“So for now our only practical alternative is to disable trading and Steam Marketplace transfers for CS: GO and Dota 2 items for Dutch customers. We apologize to you for this inconvenience. We hope that, after more engagement with the Kansspelautoriteit, they may refine their legal demands and we can find a solution that is less inconvenient.”
There’s actually nothing confusing about it, the Dutch law is identical to the laws here in America regarding digital gambling. In fact, Valve already had a run-in with the Washington State Gambling Commission two years ago when the state commission stepped in to force Valve to issue cease and desist letters to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive third-party loot box betting websites. Just like the Dutch, the Washington State Gambling Commission deemed loot boxes as gambling, especially due to their transferable value. The only thing was that the commission failed to investigate the root cause of the loot boxes, so Valve got off Scott free.
In this case, the Dutch did not let Valve off easy, and it’s unfortunate to see Valve twisting the truth in order to protect the loot box racket they have going for their free-to-play games. In fact, an easy solution would be to replace the random element for accessing the loot boxes and instead simply allow players to individually purchase the items they want.
As reported by Cybersport, while Valve may be opting to comply with the Dutch authorities, there are still games like FIFA and Overwatch that persist in utilizing loot boxes despite having received the warning back in May. Those that don’t comply with the law will either incur a €830,000 fine or suffer a penalty of 10% of their worldwide turnover.