Loot boxes are a feature in video games where players can acquire virtual goods like weapons, characters, or aesthetic alterations to enhance their gaming experience. Players can earn loot boxes through normal gameplay or purchase them with legal tender. The type and rarity of the rewards are commonly determined by a random number generator, ensuring that the success of acquiring a specific good is based on luck rather than skill. Due to the elements of consideration (wager), luck, and reward in loot box mechanisms mirroring those found in traditional gambling devices, some legislators view loot boxes as a form of unregulated gambling. This is bolstered by findings that show how excessive and prolonged gaming can encourage the same psychological responses found in problem gambling. Advocates of the gaming industry argue that loot boxes function less like gambling devices and more like legal forms of “gambling per se,” similar to the distribution of rare cards in packs of baseball cards. Video game developers have exacerbated the issue by implementing policies that manipulate players into making more in-game purchases. Even if these mechanisms do not comfortably fit within the legal definition of gambling, profit-based loot boxes should be regulated, considering the damaging psychological effects they have on the end users, many of whom tend to be young children.
Kourosh Azin, How Pay-to-Win Makes Us Lose: Introducing Minors to Gambling Through Loot Boxes, 61 B.C.L. Rev. 1577 (2020), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol61/iss4/8