Swedish government may consider new loot box restrictions

29 October 2019

The Swedish authorities may consider new restrictions on loot boxes, after the government submitted a report that warned of the video game feature's potential risks for children and the vulnerable to the country's Gaming Market Commission (Spelmarknadsutredningen).

The report, published by the Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket), will be considered by Spelmarknadsutredningen as it compiles a series of recommendations for reducing the negative effects of gambling in the country. 

In its report the Konsumentverket acknowledged that many had highlighted the similarity between loot boxes, a feature whereby a player can buy ‘blind boxed’ virtual items for cash, and real-money gaming.

While it said the mechanic of buying an item without knowing what it was did not constitute gambling, it noted that if that item could then be exchanged for cash, this could fall under the remit of the Gaming Act, which came into force from 1 January this year.

However, its findings were ultimately inconclusive. 

"It is difficult to estimate the extent of any consumer problems caused by loot boxes in the Swedish market," the report said.

"There are individual cases that have attracted attention from the media both in Sweden and abroad, where adults or children have spent large sums on the purchase of loot boxes. Neither the Konsumentverket nor the Swedish Gaming Authority (Spelinspektionen), however, have received more than a few notifications or questions from the public regarding loot boxes."

It did note that a number of reports emphasised loot boxes' structural and pyschological similarities to real-money gaming.

"Various factors highlighted as similar are imagery and sound effects, high availability, the ability to play alone at home, the short time between betting and outcome and the fact players can easily get 'stuck' in the game and lose all sense of time and money being spent," it said.

Sweden's Minister for Social Security Ardalan Shekarabi, who oversees gambling policy, said it was important to ensure that consumers were properly protected.

“The fact that computer and video games are of great interest to children and young people makes the issue extra important,” Shekarabi explained.

Sweden is not the only country country considering a change to regulations on loot boxes. Last month, a UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee called on the UK Government to regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act 2005 to help protect children from gambling-related harm.

The DCMS committee argued that as loot boxes can be purchased with real money and do not reveal their contents beforehand, they should be classed as games of chance and therefore regulated under the Gambling Act.