Thus far, the fight to regulate video game loot boxes has been a piecemeal effort moving forward in very different ways in different jurisdictions. Today, though, an international group of regulators from 15 European regulation bodies and Washington state in the US signed a declaration stating their increasing concern "with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming."
The declaration identifies four specific areas of concern:
- Skin betting—Third-party sites that allow users to wager money or in-game items for a chance at earning better items. Valve has already faced pushback from Washington State regulators for Steam's role in "facilitating" such skin-gambling schemes.
- Loot boxes—In-game purchases that offer randomized rewards. Some loot boxes have already been ruled as illegal in the Netherlands and Belgium, and there have been some attempts to do the same from some US lawmakers.
- Social casino gambling—Apps like Big Fish Casino in which users can optionally spend money on virtual gambling chips if they don't feel like waiting for the in-game currency to replenish. A US District court ruled Big Fish Casino constituted illegal gambling earlier this year, and there are multiple active lawsuits surrounding other such games.
- "The use of gambling themed content within video games available to children."—In addition to the above, this would seemingly apply to games with poker or slot-machine-style minigames (or, uh, Casino Kid for the NES).
The declaration says that the types of games and services listed above have "similar characteristics to those that led our respective legal frameworks and authorities to provide for the regulation of online gambling." But the signatories don't commit to any specific actions against such games for now, beyond "working together to thoroughly analyze the characteristics of video games and social gaming." The declaration also notes that there are different frameworks for gambling regulation in different countries.