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Guidance

Lootboxes: Advice to the Gambling Commission from ABSG

ABSG has given advice to the Gambling Commission in regards to lootboxes. This advice outlines what lootboxes are, concerns around them, and how to protect consumers.

Introduction

In July 2019, ABSG published advice on online harms, which highlighted concerns about these features and evidence associated with their impact1. The advice stated:

‘Playing video games, and other online games via apps on mobile phones, increasingly involve content which is very close to gambling activity. Our concerns relate to ‘skins’ gambling, ‘lootboxes’ and ‘social casino games’. Further consideration needs to be given as to whether the gambling-like content is appropriate – particularly as it is used by large numbers of children and young people. Legal definitions of gambling may currently allow certain practices to avoid regulation, even though they are potentially harmful and are perceived as gambling by those that use them.’2

In November 2020, to support the Gambling Commission’s input to policy work being led by DCMS on the issue of lootboxes, we were asked to consider:

  • what conclusions could be drawn from the evidence base in relation to nature and scale of any consumer detriment associated with lootboxes
  • whether or not lootboxes are increasing the risk that young people who use them become more at risk of gambling harms later in life.3

This briefing note sets out ABSG’s response to these questions and recommendations on how risks associated with these products could be mitigated.

Although out of the scope of this advice on lootboxes, ABSG also notes other concerns related to gaming – such as games and apps which look like gambling products but are not classed as gambling under the 2005 Act because they do not have stakes or prizes. ABSG’s concerns about these types of product and the risks they create for children have been noted in previous advice.

References

1Reducing online harms: ABSG's response to the Government's white paper ABSG, July 2019 - extract in Annex A.

2The full advice, published in July 2019, can be read here. The full extract on lootboxes is provided in Annex B.

3Links are provided to relevant background reading and resources in Annex A.

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