As loot boxes continue to come under scrutiny from various legal bodies, a member of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) in Australia has stated that - at least in Victoria - loot boxes are considered a means of gambling.
The debate over a “gambling” classification for loot boxes has seen defenders on both sides of the aisle. Just last month, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) argued that loot boxes did not fall under the legal definition of gambling in the United States. The crux of their case was that, since the contents of loot boxes are digital goods, they have no explicit value and are therefore not considered a “wager.”
Evidently, Jarrod Wolfe - Strategic Analyst for the Compliance Division at the VCGLR - has determined otherwise. Coming fresh off the heels of Belgium’s loot box classification, Wolfe stated in an email that, “...the idea that (genuine) progression in a game could be reliant on the outcome of a random number generator is at odds with responsible gambling and the objectives of our acts.” He goes on to state that the tendency of these systems to expose minors to gambling practices and language “...is not just morally reprehensible, but is also legally questionable.”
However, Wolfe explains that legislative restrictions are currently limiting the ability of the VCGLR to investigate the issue further. Since the companies using loot boxes in its games are located overseas, the VCGLR is “...not necessarily equipped to determine the legality of these practices.” Wolfe does make it clear that this is more of a temporary roadblock to the investigation than anything else, with the VCGLR currently working to “...modernize and inform both Federal and State based legislation” to better tackle the problem.
Of course, legislation can take some time to process, so whether Victoria will be able to pursue the issue beyond a local context remains to be seen. Even still, Wolfe proposed working with the Australian Classification Board to automatically assign an “R” (age 18+) rating to any game that includes monetized loot boxes. At the very least, it seems that loot boxes aren’t going to be leaving the public eye anytime soon.