In the past year, a number of governments across the world have started taking a look at the blurring between gaming and gambling. In the U.S., Hawaii took aim specifically at Star Wars: Battlefront II, even as recently as last week Belgium suggested a criminal investigation into Electronic Arts and the FIFA titles. Now that list is expanding both in the number of investigators and the number of things they’re looking to examine.
Fifteen European countries and the U.S. state of Washington have signed a declaration promising to look into various types of gambling mechanisms attached and adjacent to video games. The countries that signed the declaration are as follows:
- Austria: Alfred Hacker, director, Federal Ministry of Finance
- Czech Republic: Karel Blaha, director of the State Oversight Over Gambling Department
- France: Charles Coppolani, chair of the French Online Gaming Regulatory Authority
- Gibraltar: Andrew Lyman, executive director, Gambling Division, HM Government of Gibraltar
- Ireland: Brendan Mac Namara, principal officer, Gambling Policy Division, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland
- Isle of Man: Steve Brennan, chief executive, Gambling Supervision Commission
- Jersey: Jason Lane, chief executive, Jersey Gambling Commission
- Latvia: Signe Birne, director of Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection of Latvia
- Malta: Heathcliff Farrugia, chief executive officer, Malta Gaming Authority
- The Netherlands: Jan Suyver, chair of the board of directors of the Netherlands Gambling Authority
- Norway: Henrik Nordal, director deputy general, Norwegian Gaming Authority
- Poland: Paweł Gruza, undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Finance
- Portugal: Teresa Monteiro, vice president of Turismo de Portugal, I.P
- Spain: Juan Espinosa García, CEO, directorate general for Gambling Regulation
- Washington state: David Trujillo, director, Washington State Gambling Commission
- United Kingdom: Neil McArthur, chief executive officer, UK Gambling Commission
The goal of the this declaration is to examine trading sites first and foremost, such as the gambling sides that plagued Counterstrike: Global Offensive and populate around games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds today. But the signatories also want to look at lootboxes, buying virtual currency for gambling in games, and in-game gambling, though it’s not clear how broad that last one can be.
While the declaration does not outline anything actionable or punitive at the outset, the intention seems to be clear that gambling agencies are looking into whether these aspects of video games should be under the same regulations as gambling. To avoid this in Belgium, Blizzard and Valve simply turned the ability to open lootboxes off in the country while operating regularly elsewhere. A more worldwide effort would seemingly curtail that as an easy option.
The declaration, which was delivered out of the UK, states that “regulators identify in such emerging gaming products and services similar characteristics to those that led our respective legal frameworks and authorities to provide for the regulation of online gambling.”