The debate over whether or not loot boxes classify as gambling has ended in several regions, with regions like the U.K., and the U.S., mostly hand-waving them away as legal microtransactions, while other countries like Belgium and Netherlands have classified them as gambling. One country that seems close to labeling them as a means of illegal gambling is Finland.
According to a report from Finnish news outlet Nyt, it’s been stated that the Finnish police are investigating the mechanisms of loot boxes, and their potential classification as an illegal mechanism for electronic gambling.
The investigation began after Belgium launched a criminal investigation into Electronic Arts for defying to remove loot boxes from games like FIFA. Since loot boxes are illegal in Belgium unless the publishers have a gambling license, publishers such as Valve and 2K Games were forced to comply with the law and remove loot boxes from games like NBA 2K and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Electronic Arts, however, defied the law and is now facing legal consequences.
Finnish police decided to investigate the seriousness of loot boxes as gambling mechanisms, going through a list of variables that may or may not constitute them as illegal gambling, including whether or not real money is being paid into a random system where the odds of attaining the item you want is unclear, and whether or not players can know beforehand if the item they want is even in the loot boxes, and whether or not he publisher qualifies for a legal gambling license under the prevailing law.
Jim Sterling was quick to report on the news, doing a video castigating the practice of loot boxes.
This isn’t just pomp and circumstance, though. Senior inspector Mikko Cantell from the Finnish police board told Nyt that after the Belgium incident they began assembling a group to discuss the role of loot boxes in the Finnish marketplace and how they align with traditional gambling mechanisms…
“In international discussions both at home and abroad, it emerged that video games have gambling features that permeate the definition of lotteries. We assembled a group that began to think about our position […]”
“This was born of our own need to form a more accurate view of the situation: in the initial stage we did not have a complete idea of what the elements are in the loot boxes and how they deal with the lottery law – or rather the reverse of how the lottery law deals with loot boxing.”
If Finland does decide to label loot boxes as gambling, then publishers will either have to circumscribe their monetary mechanisms to Finnish law and acquire a gambling license, or much like in the case of Belgium and the Netherlands, remove the loot boxes altogether from their games.
(Thanks for the news tip Gemma Ham)
(Main image courtesy of MonoriRogue)
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