Here’s what India’s gambling regulators need to do about loot boxes

 
loot boxes

To answer the question if loot boxes equal gambling: yes, loot boxes can be considered gambling. And there’s a lot that the government can do to address this issue, the first of which is to include loot boxes as well as online gaming within the ambit of its outdated regulation on gambling.

Loot boxes are ‘light’ gambling

Loot boxes are add-on content that players can buy to add value to their gaming experience. These boxes may contain bonus coins, or new avatars, a new weapon or even tools that players can use in their gameplay. The catch here is that the player pays for the loot box, but they do not know what’s inside it until they’ve purchased it.

Going by the dictionary definition of gambling, which describes the activity as one that involves “the risk of money on the result of something, hoping to make money,” loot boxes are for all intents and purposes, gambling.

However, it’s worth noting that gambling activities are strictly for players over 18 years old. Take Pure Win for example, which operates under an international license ensuring it adheres to a strict set of regulations for the protection of the players and the operators as well.

In comparison, virtually anyone can get their hands on loot boxes—even toddlers simply by pressing the screen of a smartphone. Felicia Wijkander, Chief Editor at India's Biggest Casino Comparing Platform SevenJackpots, made an interesting point that loot boxes may be a loophole of the online gaming sector that has been largely ignored especially in emerging markets like India. This is because there is no limit to how many loot boxes anyone can purchase, and a player can buy as many as they want in hopes of boosting their chances to win.

It’s time for India to regulate loot boxes, online gaming

It’s why it’s high time for India to get with the times and include loot boxes as well as online gaming within its ambit. Mature gaming markets have already established regulatory frameworks that address the dangers of loot boxes, something that Uday Walia and Surbhi Soni of Indian law firm Touchstone Partners, which handles high stakes matters including regulation and competition law, have already discussed in a recent piece.

Loot boxes remain a developing challenge for many markets, and gambling regulators are continuously amending and updating their regulatory frameworks to adapt to the changing times. Belgium, one of the first countries to regulate loot boxes, have brought games offering loot boxes in its gameplay within the law’s ambit; while Germany amended its gaming law in 2021 so that games and apps offering in-app purchases or loot boxes fall under 18 and above only category; and the United Kingdom is reportedly well on its way towards updating its gaming laws to address loot boxes.

These are excellent examples for India, which has yet to revamp its largely outdated regulation on gambling, on how policy makers should take loot boxes into account when regulating the thriving online gaming industry. Similar to the case of online gaming, blanket bans have proven not to work—as well as unconstitutional—which means the way forward for India is a clear regulatory framework that will limit minors from accessing loot boxes, while also ensuring that game providers take greater responsibility over the services that they offer the players.

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