Benjamin Faveri is a student in the Master of Public Policy and Administration.
Loot boxes are a product that can be purchased within a videogame for real-world currency, and, on occasion, in-game currency. Loot boxes give the buyer a chance to win an in-game product such as a different set of armour, a new weapon, or a rare player card (Agarwal, 2019). Think of it like buying a 50/50 ticket during a local hockey game; a person must purchase the hockey game ticket first and once inside the game, can then purchase a chance to win a prize through the 50/50 ticket. This is precisely how loot boxes work. A person must purchase the videogame first and can then purchase loot boxes from within the videogame for a chance to win a prize.
Sure, 50/50 tickets are typically harmless. But what if millions of these tickets were sold every year? What if the companies selling these tickets were left unregulated? What if these tickets were the only form of gambling some people had access too? What if this form of gambling was not covered by any law? What if many purchasers were children? Would that get your attention?
The debate surrounding loot boxes has generally centered on whether they constitute gambling and that they should therefore be regulated accordingly. This debate has focused on the legal definition of gambling under federal, state and territorial legislation, and the definition of gambling according to psychology.
In Canada, loot boxes are sold without regulation. They do not fall under any current section of the Criminal Code of Canada, any provincial act or regulatory body as loot boxes are currently categorized as ‘social gambling’ given they do not award a monetary prize but rather an item lacking any intrinsic value (Bush, 2019).