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Belgian and Dutch authorities are investigating loot boxes in video games

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Loot boxes in Overwatch contain special items, with some being time-limited, such as one kind for a Halloween event earlier this year.

 

Purchases in video games that have a random result are often seen as a legal grey area in many countries, and so authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands are investigating whether the purchases of loot boxes in certain systems should be classified as gambling. In Belgium, this specifically relates to the games Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch, as the Belgian Gambling Commission is investigating those two titles specifically.

As reported by VTM (and via Eurogamer, Gamasutra), the director of the Belgian Gambling Commission, Peter Naessens, has stated that “if there is a game of chance, it is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission”. 

In these games, players are able to purchase loot boxes, which have random rewards. In Overwatch, those rewards are cosmetic items that can change the player character or cause them to say different things in the game. In Star Wars Battlefront 2, those rewards can range from new weapons to the sorts of cosmetic items seen in Overwatch.

Previously, players were able to purchase these loot boxes for real money in both titles, but this has since changed: following fan backlash, EA, publishers of Star Wars Battlefront 2, have turned that system off. In both games, you’re able to earn loot boxes through play, with Overwatch also having a system where they can be bought for real money. 

Similarly, the Dutch Gaming Authority are investigating loot boxes in games as a whole, as reported by NU.nl. Both groups are in research stages currently, and have not made a formal conclusion on whether loot boxes should or should not be counted as gambling. 

Neither of these authorities have direct control on laws in the United Kingdom, and Eurogamer reported last month that the Gambling Commission in the UK does not currently consider loot boxes as gambling as they cannot be exchanged for real money. They have, however, been a “significant focus” for the organisation as of late.

 

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George Miller (Gyorgy Molnar) started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.

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Belgium

Belgium officially declares loot boxes a form of gambling

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Last week we reported that the Belgium government were investigating the stratospheric rise of loot boxes, and its effects on gamers playing titles such as Overwatch, and the recently launched Star Wars: Battlefront II. The Gaming Commission has officially concluded their investigation and aims to put an end to these practices – in Europe at least.

According to a report in VTM Nieuws, the ruling by the Commission concluded that loot boxes constituted a form of gambling and that they were dangerous in the hands of minors and people with addiction problems. The Belgium Minister of Justice, Koen Geens jumped into the fray as well, pointing out that “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age is dangerous for the mental health of the child“.

The Commission aims to ban these in-game transactions, in the case where the buyer does not know exactly what they might get once it ‘unlocks’. This follows on a report that the state of Hawaii is also looking into legislation to ban this form of micro-transaction. Since Belgium forms part of the European Union, the process could take some time, but Geens pointed out that it will ‘certainly try to ban [them]’.

The loot box controversy took on a life of its own this year after several AAA games implemented them, including Assassin’s Creed: OriginsForza Motorsport 7, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. However, after appearing in Star Wars: Battlefront II, it caused enough backlash for countries like Belgium to investigate. However, not everyone agrees that micro-transactions are dangerous, with KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Evan Wingren noting that gamers were simply ‘overreacting’.

If loot boxes were found to be a form of gambling, this could have a serious impact as to how games are marketed to the general public. This is due to the fact that the ESRB (an American self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings to consumer video games) – which already concluded that loot boxes were not a form of gambling – always rates titles with gambling for ‘Adults Only’.

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Belgium

Goldenpalace.be awarded A+ license and expand Live Casino

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Goldenpalace.be confirmed that the Golden Palace Group has obtained the right to operate an A+ license. With this license, it joins a select group of operators in the regulated Belgian market.

 

The Belgian Gaming Commission has entered www.goldenpalace.be into the table of official A+ licensed operators. Goldenpalace.be, is primarily focused on the Belgian market, and was already operating under the B+ license since 2011 and was one of the very first sites to launch a legal Belgian gaming offering. The brand has been expanding its portfolio of casino games and recently added sports betting.

Improving the player experience has always been a key focus point at Goldenpalace.be. This A+ license gives us the opportunity to take further steps in ensuring the best possible product gaming experience for our players”- says Tim Boonen, Head of Online at Goldenpalace.be.

We are delighted to see our partners expand their offering of games” says Kfir Kugler, Ezugi CEO. “We are committed to our partnership with Goldenpalace.be who has now increased their offering of Live Dealer Casino games to 6 Roulette Tables, 6 Blackjack Tables, 3 Baccarat Tables and a Casino Hold’em table. These new games will help continue their phenomenal growth in the Belgium market and position them as the preferred option for players.

 

About Ezugi:
Ezugi is an innovative live dealer gaming system provider, both for land-based casinos and regulated digital operators via a global network of offices and Live Dealer Studios thus allowing a localised service to their clients.
Ezugi’s system is designed to integrate a live dealer’s video feed with multiple operators’ websites, languages, and currencies. Ezugi offers real-money revenue generating live games such as Blackjack, Baccarat, Roulette, Over the Table (OTT) and Lottery as well as RNG games and mini-games.

About Golden Palace:
Golden Palace is Belgian market leader with over 40 gaming halls and betting shops. The Group also has an online platform goldenpalace.be on which players can bet on sports and play casino games, including a live casino. Golden Palace is committed to ethical marketing. In recent years the experienced group has enjoyed a significant growth, both online and land-based.

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Belgium

Belgian court rules online gambling sites can’t offer more than one product from same URL

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Belgium’s already restrictive online gambling licensing regime could get even more restrictive following a recent court ruling.

 

Last Thursday, Belgian media reported that the Constitutional Court had ruled that the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) had no authority to issue a single gambling license to any online operator that offered more than one type of gambling product via the same website.

This challenge to the BGC’s licensing practices was brought by land-based gaming hall operator Rocoluc NV, which also offers online casino games via the Casinobelgium.be domain. Rocoluc’s view was that Belgian land-based licenses don’t permit operators to offer different types of gambling under the same roof, so why should online operators be treated differently?

Rocoluc has not been shy about using the courts to push back against its competitors, having mounted a legal challenge earlier this year of Ladbrokes’ de facto monopoly in offering virtual sports via its Belgian land-based betting offices.

Rocoluc ultimately prevailed in this challenge, and Ladbrokes was forced to withdraw virtual sports products from its betting shops. However, Ladbrokes’ Belgian-licensed betting site continued to offer virtual sports, prompting Rocoluc to sue the government for €500k in damages.

The BGC has yet to comment on Thursday’s ruling, but absent a decision to appeal Thursday’s ruline, it appears that Belgian-licensed online operators could be forced to reapply for separate licenses for each online product, while potentially making casino products inaccessible from an online betting URL and vice versa.

While online gambling activity is rising in the country, Belgium has one of the most restrictive regulatory regimes on the continent, if not the planet, and further curbs are in the works. Last month, legislators approved plans for a blanket ban on gambling advertising on television during live sports events, while also mulling the effective elimination of online gambling affiliate marketing.

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