Australian Parliamentary committee recommends loot box regulation

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Also suggests mandatory age verification for purchases toward any simulated gambling elements in games

A parliamentary committee in Australia has recommended the introduction of loot box regulation, with mandatory age checks for purchasing.

This is one of six recommendations made in the Protecting The Age Of Innocence report, which is the result of an inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs into age verification for online wagering and pornography.

Specifically, the recommendation is that: "the Office of the eSafety Commissioner or other relevant government department report to the Australian Government on options for restricting access to loot boxes and other simulated gambling elements in computer and video games to adults aged 18 years or over, including through the use of mandatory age verification."

The committee also recommends that the Digital Transformation Agency, working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre, develops new standards for online age verification.

Elsewhere in the report, the committee suggests that warnings should be added to video games that include any form of microtransaction, including loot boxes, skins and other cosmetic items.

Labor members of the Committee noted that any work on restricting access to these elements in games should be done in consultation with the industry

At present, loot boxes do not class as wagering under the nation's 2001 Interactive Gambling Act, but the committee reports "concerns in the community" about how they might expose children and young people to simulated gambling. It notes loot boxes have the potential to act as a "gateway to problem gambling and associated harms later in life."

It also says evidence shows young people are often exposed to online gambling by their parents or guardians and calls for more resources to be put toward raising awareness about the risks and harms of online gambling, as well as how parents can create safer online environments for their children.

In supporting its argument, the committee pointed to the UK's calls for regulation on loot boxes as a result of a similar government inquiry made last year.

It also pointed to a previous recommendation from the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee that the Australian Government undertake a comprehensive review of loot boxes in video games, including further research into the potential for gambling-related harms.

This recommendation was originally made in November 2018, as the loot box debate escalated around the launch of Star Wars Battlefront II. It led to research by the Department of of Communications and the Arts, which found concerns among parents and gamers that loot boxes resemble gambling

Labor members noted this inquiry didn't recommend further regulatory action, and the Government's response in March 2019 did not support the recommendation for further research or a review of loot boxes.

https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-03-06-australian-parliamentary-committee-recommends-loot-box-regulation