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International gambling regulators unite on skins gambling, loot boxes

Agencies from Spain, UK, France, Washington State, and a dozen more concerns about "blurring of lines between gambling and gaming"

The games industry has come under scrutiny from a number of gambling regulators in recent years. And while that has caused issues for specific publishers in specific markets, there may be a more coordinated effort to crack down on questionable practices in the works.

As reported by Eurogamer, 16 international regulatory bodies have co-signed a "declaration of gambling regulators on their concerns related to the blurring of lines between gambling and gaming." The letter appeared most concerned with illegal betting happening through third-party websites (skins gambling, for instance), but it also stated that publishers must "ensure that features within games, such as loot boxes, do not constitute gambling under national laws."

The declaration came out of the 2018 Gambling Regulators European Forum, held in May and June in the Czech Republic. The signees included representatives of the French Online Gaming Regulatory Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, and Spain's Directorate General for Gambling Regulation. Though it came out of a European forum, the letter was also signed by one North American regulator in David Trujillo, director of the Washington State Gambling Commission.

The complete list of signees follows:

  • Austria: Alfred Hacker, Director, Federal Ministry of Finance
  • Czech Republic: Karel Blaha, Director of the State Oversight Over Gambling Department
  • France: Charles Coppolani, Chair of the French Online Gaming Regulatory Authority
  • Gibraltar: Andrew Lyman, Executive Director, Gambling Division, HM Government of Gibraltar
  • Ireland: Brendan Mac Namara, Principal Officer, Gambling Policy Division, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland
  • Isle of Man: Steve Brennan, Chief Executive, Gambling Supervision Commission
  • Jersey: Jason Lane, Chief Executive, Jersey Gambling Commission
  • Latvia: Signe Birne, Director of Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection of Latvia
  • Malta: Heathcliff Farrugia, Chief Executive Officer, Malta Gaming Authority
  • The Netherlands: Jan Suyver, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Netherlands Gambling Authority
  • Norway: Henrik Nordal, Director Deputy General, Norwegian Gaming Authority
  • Poland: Paweł Gruza, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Finance
  • Portugal: Teresa Monteiro, Vice-President of Turismo de Portugal, I.P
  • Spain: Juan Espinosa García, CEO, Directorate General for Gambling Regulation
  • Washington State: David Trujillo, Director, Washington State Gambling Commission
  • UK: Neil McArthur, Chief Executive Officer, UK Gambling Commission

One agency notably absent from the list is the Belgian Gaming Commission. The group has been among the more aggressive regulators on the issue, saying companies like Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, and Valve have all been employing loot box mechanics that violate Belgian gambling laws. While Valve, Activision Blizzard, and Take-Two haven chosen to turn off contested loot box functionality in their games when called out by regulators, EA has refused to change its practices and is likely headed to court to defend them.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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