Loot boxes

The NGA warns about the possible dangers of loot boxes, such as the risk of addiction and large financial expenses. Especially in the case of minors, there is a risk that they may have difficulty in understanding the consequences of such games. Whether social games and loot boxes are games of chance where a permit from the Gaming Authority is needed is a complex question which requires research.

The Betting and Gaming act

The bill on Remote Gambling, which is currently pending in the Senate, proposes measures to counteract the interplay between gaming and games of chance and possible deception as a result. The license holder may only offer other services and goods in addition to remote games of chance, insofar as that offer is strictly separate from the offer of licensed games of chance. Only video games that meet the definition of games of chance are regulated by the Betting and Gaming Act (Wok). Video games that are not included here are also not covered by the general prohibition of offering games of chance without a gaming license.

The short summary of our report is the following:

The Netherlands Gambling Authority has completed its study of loot boxes, also known as ‘crates’, ‘cases’ or ‘packs’. Loot boxes are a type of treasure chest that are built into a growing number of games. Loot boxes in games create a mixing of games of chance and games of skill. Although the outcome of games is determined by skill, the outcome of loot boxes is determined by chance. Players usually has to pay for a loot box. The prize that they can win with loot boxes may also have a monetary value. This fact gave rise to the question of whether loot boxes are permitted on the grounds of the Betting and Gaming Act (Wet op de kansspelen). The Netherlands Gambling Authority was also interested in whether addiction risks are associated with opening loot boxes.

Reason for the study

The Netherlands Gambling Authority studied loot boxes after concerns were raised by gamers, parents and addiction care.

Findings of the study

The study revealed that four of the ten loot boxes that were studied contravene the law. The reason is that the content of these loot boxes is determined by chance and that the prizes to be won can be traded outside of the game: the prizes have a market value. Offering these types of games of chance to Dutch consumers without a license is prohibited.

The analyses that are currently available indicate that all of the loot boxes that were studied could be addictive. Loot boxes are similar to gambling games such as slot machines and roulette in terms of design and mechanisms. There are, however, no indications of loot boxes being opened on a large scale by problem players and/or addicted players. Socially vulnerable groups, such as young people, are being encouraged to play games of chance.