Norway reviews loot boxes and may classify them as gambling

Loot boxes are becoming increasingly controversial across the world. Belgium and the Netherlands have already classified loot boxes as gambling and countries such as Sweden are looking forward to joining the club. Norway is not far behind though, informs

In late 2017, leading liberal political party member, Abid Raja wrote to the Norwegian Justice Minister Per-Willy Amundsen asking if the minister knew about the controversy and challenges surrounding loot boxes and in-game currency. In the letter, Raja asked the minister to consider looking into the matter and bring it before the European Parliament so as to adjust the policy covering video games in their gambling regulations. 

The review of loot boxes

Finally, the government has finally taken a step in determining whether loot boxes are gambling or not. According to Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK), a Norwegian media outlet, a Norwegian scholar will open loot boxes in video games to determine their true nature. The scholar will also determine whether the loot boxes constitute gambling. This was reported in the last week of April. 

The move by Norway comes after Belgium and the Netherlands which recently published the results of their own investigations. In their findings, both the Dutch and Belgian regulatory bodies found that loot boxes systems of a number of popular video games violate gambling laws of both countries.

As part of the study, an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychosocial at the University of Bergen, Rune Mentozi will buy loot boxes featured in the FIFA Ultimate Team video game worth NOK 50,000 ($6,248). Mr. Mentozi told the media that buying these loot boxes would help him determine whether the boxes should be considered a form of gambling or not. His findings will be presented before the Norwegian Gaming Authority (Lotteri-og stiftelsestilsynet) and other regulators in the country.

Mr. Mentozi told the media that he believes the purchasing of the loot boxes and given the fact that they will be randomly selected according to their value is very much like playing on a slot machine. The in-game purchasable items are usually a loss which is disguised as a win, he observed. It is not surprising that the Dutch Gambling Authority came to the same conclusion in its review of the loot boxes. The Authority observed that the loot boxes acted like slot machines because they could be opened countless times and deploy the “near-miss” effect.

The Norwegian Ministry of Culture has already formed a committee to look into the matter and determine whether loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling or not. A Senior Advisor to the Norwegian gambling regulator, Trude Felde, said that an investigation into loot boxes could provide a good argument for a change in the existing laws. She told NRK that when drafting new laws, regulators and legislators must bear in mind that circumstances and technology change rapidly and any new rules should be designed in a more ‘technology-neutral’ way.

Introduction of new laws

In the last week of April 2018, there were reports that four parties submitted a legislation which was aimed at preventing unlicensed gambling operators from targeting Norwegian residents. The new laws were supported by a majority in parliament even though legislators were expected to adopt the changes on May 7th. 

Over the years, the Norwegian government has resisted suggestions and pressure to allow foreign operators to obtain licenses to offer gambling services in the country. The government insists that a monopoly system is the most socially responsible one and there is no need for it to be replaced. Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are state-run gambling entities that are authorized to offer gambling services in the country. Under the new rules, foreign operators targeting local players will be punished by the Norwegian Gaming Authority. DNS blocking will be introduced to make sure that local players don’t get targeted by unlicensed operators.