Recently, a Supreme Court judge from British Columbia ruled that Electronic Arts’ loot box mechanic is not a form of gambling. Judge Justice Margot Fleming of B.C.’s Supreme Court wrote that gambling involved the risk of losing or gaining something of real-world value, and that is why she does not consider loot boxes in video games to be a form of gambling activity.
For those unaware, a loot box is an in-game consumable item which gives players randomized chances of winning a digital item or skill that may be used in the game’s progression. Usually, they appear naturally in the game, but in some instances, players can get them in exchange for real cash. Its element of chance has seen a comparison to actual gambling activities.
In her ruling in a class-action suit against EA, Judge Fleming pointed out that gambling must feature a risk of losing something of real-world value, which, according to her, is not the case for the company’s video games. She added that, unlike a casino chip, virtual currency and virtual items from loot boxes cannot be cashed out to gain money.
Mark Sutherland is the plaintiff in the lawsuit, who previously purchased loot boxes in EA’s Madden NFL series of games. However, the class action suit also applies to anyone in the Province of B.C. who has paid real money for loot boxes in any EA title. This features over 70 games, including the developer’s popular FIFA franchise.
Mr. Fleming also ruled out that the lawsuit against the company could proceed as it was based on complaints that the loot boxes may have deceptive acts or practices. The lawsuit alleges that the virtual boxes and their items had intrinsic value since they could be sold on third-party platforms. However, the judge found it to be false and said they can only be traded only on EA’s auction platform for virtual currency.
The judge’s conclusion was that there is no prospect of gaining or losing, anything with real-world value via the defendant’s in-house actions. EA also provided a statement on the decision, saying the company is pleased to see the trial court rejected the allegations of unlawful gambling. The game giant said the ruling supports its stance that nothing in its games constitutes gambling.
Experts Do Not Agree
However, gambling and addiction experts do not agree and believe that loot boxes are related to gambling. This month, Luke Clark, director at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Gambling Research presented his new research that correlates video game loot boxes to problem gambling. He even compared the game mechanic to one of the slot games.
A while back, Maude Bonenfant, a professor in the department of social and public communication at the University of Quebec in Montreal, also spoke on the matter. She argued that signature casino mechanisms and the element of chance are what make video gaming even more addictive. Players find it hard to put an end to their gaming sessions that tend to last longer.
Source: “EA Loot Boxes ‘Not Gambling,’ Canadian Judge Rules”, Casino.org, March 23, 2023