Netherlands Court Decides Loot Boxes in Video Games Aren’t Gambling
Posted on: March 10, 2022, 06:07h.
Last updated on: March 10, 2022, 11:06h.
EA Games won’t have to pay $11 million to settle a fine in the Netherlands. The Court of The Hague was wrong when it upheld the fine two years ago, according to a new Dutch court decision.
Loot boxes are items in video games that players can purchase for cash or accumulated points. The contents of the boxes, much like the contents of the player packs, is unknown until after the purchase. Players can receive anything from an emoji or avatar to a special weapon or other valuable component.
Loot box supporters counter that, because they always provide something in return, they cannot be gambling. They also assert that the items don’t have any value since they’re virtual.
For years, opposing sides have debated whether loot boxes in video games are a form of gambling. In all that time, the answer remains elusive. A new court decision in the Netherlands involving EA Games, a division of Electronic Arts, and FIFA player packs, which are in the same category as loot boxes, doesn’t help to resolve the issue.
Loot Boxes Not Gambling in the Netherlands
In 2018, the Netherlands Gaming Authority (NGA) asserted that EA Games was offering a gambling option through its FIFA Ultimate Team. It hit the video game company with a fine, asserting that the player pack options violated Dutch gambling laws.
It ordered EA Games to remove both options. But the company appealed. Finally, in 2020, the Court of The Hague ruled in favor of the NGA.
The court anticipated resistance from EA Games, warning that the fine would increase by €500,000 (US$552,650) every week until the company settled. It capped the maximum penalty at €10 million (US$11 million), and EA Games didn’t blink.
The company refused to back down and ignored the court’s order. The game packs remained available as EA Games appealed the verdict. Its stubbornness has paid off, as the highest court in the Netherlands, the Dutch Administrative Jurisdiction Division, determined that the company didn’t break any gambling laws.
At Electronic Arts, our approach to game design puts choice, fun, fairness, and value first. Our priority has always been to make sure that our players in the Netherlands and across the world have a positive experience,” said EA Games in a statement to Eurogamer.
The court explained that because the packs are not standalone products and can only be used with the FIFA video game, they are not a game of chance. As such, they do not require a license, and therefore there can be no fine.
Dispute Not Over
Opponents have argued that loot boxes do, in fact, have value. Some loot box items become tradable, depending on their characteristics. Several years ago, a space station in the Crystal Palace video game sold for $330,000. In 2020, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in-game skin sold for $61,000.
Earlier this year, a judge in California ruled that existing gambling laws don’t cover loot boxes. Instead, it is up to lawmakers to determine how to categorize them.
EA Games has fought this battle in many countries already. It decided to remain firm in the Netherlands, but previously removed FIFA points in Belgium following an outcry there.
It is also dealing with blowback in the UK and other countries. The fight is undoubtedly going to continue, especially in light of the new Dutch court decision.
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