Four popular PC games break Netherlands gambling rules

A League of Legends loot box
A League of Legends loot boxPhoto: Screenshot / Youtube

Four popular online PC games violate the Netherlands' law on games of chance with their 'loot boxes', according to the Dutch Gambling Authority. These games should actually have a license, like a casino needs a license for a roulette table, because there is a risk of gambling addiction, the Authority said, the Volkskrant reports.

The Authority gave the game makers 8 weeks to change their games, or risk fines up to a maximum of 820 thousand euros. Until the Gambling Authority definitely establishes that a law was broken, the names of the games involved will not be revealed. "Just like elsewhere in our legal system, the publishers of these computer games are only suspects", Marja Appelman, director of the Gambling Authority, said to the newspaper.

The Gambling Authority looked at 10 games that contain loot boxes - a kind of treasure chest that contains items to change a player character's appearance or make it stronger. Some games also allow players to buy loot boxes. The Authority decided to investigate due to loot boxes' skyrocketing popularity over the past months. 

Having loot boxes in your game, even against payment, is not against Dutch law. "But if the items in such a loot box can be traded outside the game, we speak of a gambling game for which you need a permit in the Netherlands and have to take measures to protect consumers against themselves", Appelman said to the Volkskrant. 

The problem here is that online games can't yet apply for such a license in the Netherlands - a legislative amendment that will allow that is still in the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, for assessment.

The Authority also investigated whether games with loot boxes may be addictive. "In terms of design and mechanisms, they are comparable to slot machines and roulette", the researchers concluded. "However, there are no indications that loot boxes are being opened on a large scale by people who have gambling addictions or problems", Appelman added to the newspaper. 

The Gambling Authority picked the games it investigated based on "their popularity on a frequently used internet platform that streams videos of games and players". That is almost certainly Twitch. Around 15 million people use this platform per day to watch 2 million gamers play various games. The most popular games on Twitch that contain loot boxes currently include Fortnite, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Player Unknown's Battlegrounds, Overwatch and World of Warcraft.