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UK government calls for more evidence in ongoing loot box debate

The UK government has launched a fresh review into the nature of loot boxes that could see the controversial monetization method be reclassified as gambling products.

The UK government has launched a fresh review into the nature of loot boxes that could see the controversial monetization method be reclassified as gambling products. 

As reported by The Guardian, the Department for Digital Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) will this week issue a call for more evidence on loot boxes, and their presence in popular titles like FIFA

While it's unclear exactly what evidence the department is looking to collect, a government minister explained there are still concerns about the link between loot boxes and gambling -- and specifically how the mechanic might influence younger players. 

"[Loot boxes] are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalize and encourage young people to take a chance," commented Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who oversees a cross-party group of ministers investigating gambling-related harm. "All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling."

The UK, like many other countries, has been engaged in a protracted debate about the effects and potential regulation of loot boxes. 

Last July, the UK Gambling Commission said it had "significant concerns" about the practice, but that loot boxes couldn't be defined as gambling because they don't have any real-world cash value. 

In September, however, the DCMS hit back and argued that loot boxes should be covered by gambling regulations because they incorporate elements of chance and in some cases can be purchased with real-world cash. 

At the time, the DCMS claimed that policy-making and potential interventions hare being "hindered by a lack of robust evidence," which is largely the result of "companies' unwillingness to share patterns of play." 

As the argument rages on, some game companies have already taken measures to stay on the right side of the debate. EA, for instance, attempted to rebrand the loot boxes in its titles as "surprise mechanics," and even altered how they work in regions where more pressure was being applied.

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