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House of Lords holds roundtable on loot boxes

6 December 2021

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House of Lords members met with academics, charities and representatives from the gaming industry to discuss the impact of loot boxes on Wednesday 2 December.

The event brought together Lords members and people with experience and expertise on an issue that affects many young people in the UK. The House of Lords has previously published a committee report warning of the dangers of loot boxes, and members regularly press the government for action. The government held a consultation on the issue which closed in November 2020. Its report is due out soon.

During the roundtable discussion, members heard from experts who highlighted estimates that, in a market worth around £700 million in the UK, more than 250,000 young people in the UK have an addiction to loot boxes. This is an issue that has been made worse since the onset of the pandemic and repeated lockdowns. They also raised concerns that the gaming industry is not sharing information.

Participants who have experienced addiction spoke of the impact on their own lives and that of their families, as well as the way loot boxes had acted as a gateway into other forms of gambling, and that current industry measures to restrict purchases of loot boxes are unlikely to help. Workers for charities that support people who have been affected by addiction spoke of the stresses it causes on families and a need for greater regulation.

Representatives from the gaming industry stressed that, whilst they are concerned by the stories they hear from those with experience and the research findings, the sector follows the Gambling Commission’s current position, which is that loot boxes are not broadly classed as gambling. One of the key factors for the gaming industry is digital friction, which means that there is no gatekeeper to monitor the levels of purchase, unlike a physical purchase from a shop. The gaming industry is keen to work with government and charities to put the right protections in place and looks forward to seeing the recommendations when published.

House of Lords members participating were encouraged by the research that has so far been undertaken and felt that it provided sufficient evidence of the link between loot boxes and gambling. They also noted that, whilst they are concerned about the monetisation of games and the ease with which large sums can be spent by young people, they recognised the value of the gaming industry to the country’s creative sector and want to work with them to find a solution.

Participants included:

  • Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
  • Lord Foster of Bath
  • Daniel Bliss, the Young Gamblers’ Trust
  • Dr James Close, University of Plymouth
  • Dr Rachel Gordon, University of Newcastle
  • Jordan Lea, founder of Deal Me Out
  • Chris Morris, Deal Me Out
  • Jonathan Peniket, EPIC Risk Management
  • Dr Celia Pontin, Committee of Advertising Practice
  • Tim Scott, UK Interactive Entertainment
  • Vicki Shotbolt, founder of ParentZone,
  • Dr David Zendle, University of York

Read more

The House of Lords Committee on the Gambling Industry released its report in July 2020, which also raised concerns on loot boxes. Read more from the committee.