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Northern Ireland APG calls for gambling in games to be "severely limited," including loot boxes

Inquiry recommends stronger legislation as country hopes to "lead the way" on regulation

Image credit: Parliament Buildings (Stormont), the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling has called for stronger loot boxes regulation in the country.

While it didn't call for a ban, it's recommended that "gambling within video games be severely limited to the greatest possible extent in the second phase of gambling legislation in [Northern Ireland]."

This is part of a report put together following an inquiry that ran between December 2022 and January 2024, gathering evidence on the impact of gambling on public health. The APG believes that Northern Ireland is "in an advantageous position to lead the way on the regulation of loot boxes."

As part of recommendations made to the NI Executive and the UK government, it called for legislation to "regulate the structural characteristics, availability and accessibility of gambling mechanics within video games, including loot boxes."

It also recommended that companies take a more nuanced approach to loot boxes, for example offering direct purchasing options, or the guarantee to get the content of a loot box after a certain amount has been spent.

Regulation shouldn't be relying solely on games companies changing their approach though, the APG warned, but should be "based on stringent, legally mandated regulations, with attention paid to the structural characteristics and overall availability of loot boxes."

The report also called attention to free-to-play social casino titles, supporting their restriction so they can't be easily accessed by minors.

Researcher Leon Y. Xiao, who regularly contributes to on the topic of loot boxes regulation, was part of the NI inquiry and held a special evidence session.

He commented: "Players in Northern Ireland would benefit from the industry self-regulation coming into force in the UK regardless of Stormont's [the Northern Ireland Assembly] approach, but Stormont can seek to provide a higher degree of consumer protection (than that which will be enjoyed by other UK players), if it deems doing so to be necessary and appropriate."

Earlier this year, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority warned EA, Miniclip, and Jagex after they failed to disclose presence of loot boxes in some of their titles, violating the country's advertising rules.

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Marie Dealessandri avatar
Marie Dealessandri: Marie joined in 2019 to head its Academy section. A journalist since 2012, she started in games in 2016. She can be found (rarely) tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate and the Dead Cells soundtrack. GI resident Moomins expert.
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