FIFA packs are ‘not gambling’ says UK Gambling Commission
The UK Gambling Commission today announced that they do not consider FIFA packs to be a mechanism of gambling. After weeks of deliberation surrounding the purchasable content available in the EA football game series, FIFA, the decision falls in favour of the game developer.
This has certainly been a contentious issue for fans of FIFA and the gambling watchdog in the UK. The controversy around loot boxes and packs in online video games is a relatively new problem that the Gambling Commission have had to deal with. Although game developers vehemently deny that these mechanism constitute gambling, it does seem a difficult pill to swallow for a lot of industry analysts. When you consider that this content is paid for, and players are given rewards based purely on chance, the similarities with gambling are huge. The majority of people consuming this content are also under 18 years of age, and this is why this is growing into such a contentious issue.
There are many reasons the UK Gambling Commission decided FIFA packs are ‘not gambling’, but primarily they argued that the mechanism for buying FIFA packs does not fall under the realms of gambling since the content delivered contains no intrinsic monetary value. This is contentious in itself since there are parallel black markets that run alongside the game allowing users ton buy and sell FIFA cards and currency for real-world currency.
There are other examples of things that look and feel like gambling that legislation tells you are not – [such as] some prize competitions but because they have free play or free entry they are not gambling… but they are a lot like a lottery.–Neil McCarthur, Gambling Commission chief executive
The situation surrounding the laws on loot boxes has already reached a precedent in some parts of the world. In Belgium for example, the law has explicitly been changed to prohibit the use of loot boxes in games that are targeted at children. Although there is still a large degree of ambiguity in the law surrounding such software, significant steps are being made that will have a lasting impact on the welfare of people around the world.
The latest litigation against the position of FIFA will mean that the game developer will have to take great care with how they proceed and market this additional content in the future. The US based firm make billions of dollars a year in profits from the Ultimate Team game mode, and the biggest earner within this is the sale of in game content. With loyal fans of the FIFA series becoming increasingly frustrated at the apparent greed and unethical nature of the ultimate team game model, it is a system that is attracting a lot of controversy and pressure groups intensifying their criticism of the business.