In the months since the Belgian Gaming Commission determined that certain video game loot boxes constituted illegal gambling, publishers like Blizzard, Valve, and Take-Two have removed loot boxes from their games in the country. Electronic Arts, though, has yet to remove the randomized items from its recent FIFA games, a decision which seems poised to set up a court fight.
Machine-translated reports from Belgium’s Niewsblad and Metro newspapers suggest that Belgian gaming commission has now referred the matter to the country’s public prosecutor’s office, which is conducting an investigation into it.
Any such prosecution would then go before a judge, which may be a legal battle EA is looking for. In a May conference call, EA CFO Andrew Wilson stated the company’s position that the loot boxes in FIFA are not a form of gambling. That’s “firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” Wilson said.
“We’re working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, [and] have established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling,” Wilson said at the time. (EA was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment)
While government bodies in Belgium and the Netherlands have determined that loot boxes are a form of gambling, commissions in the UK and New Zealand have come to the opposite conclusion. In the US, legislators in several states and the US Senate are looking at the issue, though no legislation has yet been enacted.