In-game purchases within video games have been compared to gambling machine stakes in the latest report from the UK’s Gambling Commission.
The UK Gambling Commission has released a position paper comparing in-game video game items to gambling machines, adding that when players can ‘cash-in’ these items for real world currency it is ‘likely to be considered a licensable gambling activity’.
The ability to exchange in-games items for cash or trade on secondary markets risks drawing elements within games themselves into gambling definitions
“The ability to exchange in-games items for cash or trade on secondary markets risks drawing elements within games themselves into gambling definitions,” the regulatory body stated.
Using a common in-game model as an example, the statement describes how players can buy ‘keys’ for the opportunity to win randomly determined items from ‘crates’, ‘cases’ or ‘bundles’. These items are often of unknown quantity and value.
The Commission compares this purchasing of an in-game ‘key’ to the payment of a stake, and the grey-area arises when the prizes from this stake can be sold on secondary markets.
“Where there are readily accessible opportunities to cash in or exchange those awarded in-game items for money or money’s worth those elements of the game are likely to be considered licensable gambling activities,” the position paper added.
While specific games that may come under this scrutiny are not mentioned, titles such as Rocket League and Fifa 17 follow a similar model to that outlined by the Commission.
In terms of tackling the issue, the regulator conceded that ‘adopting a zero-tolerance approach to small scale or ad-hoc secondary markets for ingame items may not be practical or proportionate to the risks posed to the licensing objectives.’
The Commission also stated that it will liaise with games publishers and/or network operators who may unintentionally be enabling the criminal activity.