Submission Type

Presentation

Submission Title

Loot boxes: Something old or something new? Questions of definition and policy

Session Title

Session 2-2-C: Consumer Protection

Location

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

Start Date

29-5-2019 11:00 AM

End Date

29-5-2019 12:25 PM

Disciplines

Gaming Law

Abstract

Abstract

Several European jurisdictions have become particularly interested in what are often referred to as loot boxes and the challenges to gambling policy which they potentially pose. However, it is far from certain whether loot boxes, itself an umbrella term for mechanisms appearing in (online) non-gambling games, are actually games of chance. Do such mechanisms fit within the applicable definition of a game of chance? With a host of gambling regulators demonstrating an avid interest in loot boxes and indeed, taking or threatening to take enforcement action, this paper provides a contemporary application of an age old question; whether a definition of a game of chance captures a phenomenon previously untouched by gambling law.

Following an overview of action being taken across several European jurisdictions, attention will zoom in on the complexities around determining whether loot boxes satisfy the definition of a game of chance under Dutch law. It will further address public policy perspectives and question whether, in light of identified uncertainties about loot boxes constituting games of chance, threats of litigation and enforcement are conducive to attaining those objectives. Thus it will bring to the fore questions around how best to regulate activities which are on the borderline of “gambling law”.

Implication statement

Will illustrate the complexities associated with assessing whether something is a game of chance in virtual environments, thus the application of gambling law to contemporary situations. Will raise awareness of, and question, whether engagement by regulators is preferable to litigation in achieving regulatory aims.

Keywords

Gambling law, EU, loot boxes, gaming

Author Bio

Dr Alan Littler advises the national and international gambling industry as a member of the Gaming Practice. The focus of Alan’s work is for remote gambling operators and adjacent activities, such as social gaming. He also advises those providing services to the sector, e.g. payment services providers, and covers regulatory developments in the lottery and casino markets. Current interests include issues concerning data protection and privacy around gambling.

Alan has a strong academic background in European law, holding a LL.M. (cum laude) in European Community Law from Leiden University, and moreover having been awarded his PhD from Tilburg University for research on the regulation of gambling and EU law. His research was published under the title Member States versus the European Union: The Regulation of Gambling by Martinus Nijhoff in 2011.

In keeping with his academic background Alan contributes to both academic conferences and publications, as well as industry outlets. He regularly contributes to publications such as European Gaming Lawyer, has authored the chapter about the Netherlands in Thomson Reuter’s Global Gaming Guide as well as writing the monthly “Legal and Regulatory Update” for Gaming in Holland. He co-organised a one-day conference entitled Regulating Online Gambling in the EU – Recommendation 2014/478/EU on Player Protection – Where Do We Go From Here?, with the Centre for Commercial Legal Studies, Queen Mary University of London, hosted in Paris in November 2014. In addition to lecturing on the topic at QMUL, as of 2016, he convenes the module on the regulation of online gambling in QMUL’s LLM in Computer and Communications Law by Distance Learning. He also undertakes research about gambling regulation with QMUL. Alan also served on the Advisory Board of A Full House: Developing a New Socio-Legal Theory of Gambling Regulation (“The Bingo Project”) at Kent Law School (University of Kent, Canterbury) which ran from 2013 until 2016.

Funding Sources

No funding has been received for this research. This paper has been written alongside the author’s work in practice in the field.

Competing Interests

The author has been inspired to write this paper in light of experience in practice. There are no financial or non-financial competing interests.

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May 29th, 11:00 AM May 29th, 12:25 PM

Loot boxes: Something old or something new? Questions of definition and policy

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

Abstract

Several European jurisdictions have become particularly interested in what are often referred to as loot boxes and the challenges to gambling policy which they potentially pose. However, it is far from certain whether loot boxes, itself an umbrella term for mechanisms appearing in (online) non-gambling games, are actually games of chance. Do such mechanisms fit within the applicable definition of a game of chance? With a host of gambling regulators demonstrating an avid interest in loot boxes and indeed, taking or threatening to take enforcement action, this paper provides a contemporary application of an age old question; whether a definition of a game of chance captures a phenomenon previously untouched by gambling law.

Following an overview of action being taken across several European jurisdictions, attention will zoom in on the complexities around determining whether loot boxes satisfy the definition of a game of chance under Dutch law. It will further address public policy perspectives and question whether, in light of identified uncertainties about loot boxes constituting games of chance, threats of litigation and enforcement are conducive to attaining those objectives. Thus it will bring to the fore questions around how best to regulate activities which are on the borderline of “gambling law”.

Implication statement

Will illustrate the complexities associated with assessing whether something is a game of chance in virtual environments, thus the application of gambling law to contemporary situations. Will raise awareness of, and question, whether engagement by regulators is preferable to litigation in achieving regulatory aims.