[Curiosity, Red Tape, Catch-22] Loot boxes- Not casino gambling, not collectible cards, not harmful?- Definitions of Gambling, Governments and Regulation [Yes, Yes, it is that kind of topic]

[Curiosity, Red Tape, Catch-22] Loot boxes- Not casino gambling, not collectible cards, not harmful ??

Turns out a lot of games don’t have to comply with Apple’s decision to display loot box odds. Because the definition of a loot box is gambling. But a lot of loot boxes are not technically gambling. So lots of loot boxes aren’t loot boxes.

The gambling/ loot box loop hole is currently two fold a) can a third party website give you money for the items you won and b) do you get something when you open the box.

The governments, and publishers, keep comparing it to baseball cards, collectible card games, etc. But that is the problem. If I buy a pack of baseball cards, I OWN those. I can rent them, sell them, or trash them. Some one else can trade them. Game stores used to have huge boxes of common cards for $0.05 ( think 3* heroes ), uncommon cards for $1 ( think 4* heroes ). But games with loot boxes own the results of the box. If I get a Crystal staff, I cannot give it to my wife. If my wife gets a leather cap, she cannot give it to me. If I get a four steel gauntlets in a row, I cannot sell them to buy a single flame sword.

So the government is comparing non-gambling loot boxes to baseball card, but then making it illegal to treat the non-gambling loot boxes as baseball cards. That is fudged all to H. E. Double hockey sticks.

I spent $1300 USD on Magic The Gathering Collectible Card Game when it first came out. After selling my cards, with the help of some friends, I recovered $1200 and they earned $750.

After finding this out, I really feel bad for Small Giant games. By complying with the government regulations, they basically are stuck sucking all the fun out of collecting things.


Using Standard ( Magic the Gathering season ), for example, the player will know they can only buy cards that are coming out for the season and some from last season, ensuring players don’t always have the best cards and are buying new cards. As they build their deck it means figuring out what deck they are playing, then finding the cards the best suit the deck. The beauty is, even if they are solely buying card packs, that’s not the only option. MTG players can also buy cards individually from retail online or local stores. Although this method is more expensive, it means picking and choosing individual cards for their deck, hence, the player is deciding what they get. Loot boxes do not have this option, which is where the balloon completely deflates.

Paragraph 3.18 then clarifies that, even though loot boxes or crates or whatever resemble slot machines, loot boxes are not considered gambling unless they contain items with real-world value: “Where prizes are successfully restricted for use solely within the game, such in-game features would not be licensable gambling.”
. . .
“ESRB does not consider this mechanic to be gambling because the player uses real money to pay for and obtain in-game content,” a spokesperson for the ESRB tells Eurogamer.

"The player is always guaranteed to receive something - even if the player doesn’t want what is received. Think of it like opening a pack of collectible cards: sometimes you’ll get a brand new, rare card, but other times you’ll get a pack full of cards you already have.
. . .
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, has no illusions about the debate surrounding loot boxes.

“Loot box systems are gambling in my view,” Griffiths says. Griffiths penned an academic paper that explores whether RuneScape’s Squeal of Fortune and Treasure Hunter features should be considered gambling. He arrived at an unequivocal yes, not just because the mini-games meet the criteria for gambling set out in the Gambling Act of 2005, but because the bonds won from these mini-games have value outside of the game. (UPDATE: a representative from Jagex contacted Eurogamer to say these bonds can no longer be used for real-life services. Instead they can be used to purchase membership to the game itself. We’ve asked why this change was made and will update when Jagex responds.)


You totally lost me at:
“I feel bad for small giant games”

Edit: I feel bad for the people who may have a gambling addiction and wastefully throw away their money for nothing. Or people who are otherwise suckered into or choose poorly to throw away their non-disposable income into this game.

Not saying it’s a bad game. But I have zero doubt it’s plenty fricking profitable that no one needs to feel any darned sadness for SG. Those who are ‘taken advantage of’ by this crappy system are who you should feel pity for…

Edit 2: there should be gambling addiction notices on this game. Like how they have cancer warnings on cigarette cartons. A portion of profits should go to gambling recovery. And the profits should be taxed the same as casinos.

That’s what I think should happen, at a minimun, until regulatory agencies catch up and realize what a blight these “features” really are.


At no point do we need heavy-handed government regulation in games like this. Governments all over the world have proven once they get their mits into “regulation” or “licensing”, it does nothing but drive the cost up and drive excess bureaucracy that serves no purpose but to feed itself.

I can’t seriously believe that you think games like this should 1. have to have warnings or be taxed like casinos. At what point do we totally abandon personal responsibility and throw ourselves on a nanny-state?

If you feel these features are such a blight, why do you play?

I can see being forced to post the odds of various things in the loot boxes, but while it’s a random mechanic that is also used in gambling, it’s not gambling if you’re not winning anything of value (i.e. it’s not actual money nor is it resellable or redeemable for anything else).


You know as well as I do that not everyone has the same capability for self control or financial common sense.

I do strongly believe that what this type of game offers is very similar to what a casino offers - just more easily accessible. And because of how easily accessible it is, and how profitable it is for the developers, and how dangerous it can be for some players, I do think it should be heavily regulated and transparent that it could pose a risk to some individuals.

As for “nanny state,” unfortunately sometimes people do need protected from themselves and their urges. See: cigarette smoking.

If you think that a gambling warning and a higher tax rate is synonymous with nanny state and no individual accountability, that’s fine. But I think you’re wrong.

In 2018, this is the world we live in… where all or nearly all video games have this “feature.” I’ve enjoyed games all my life and currently intend to continue to enjoy games. I feel confident saying that personally I am accountable and responsible with my money here.

It’s entirely possible that I can both enjoy the game, and recognize that it and the video game industry can and should do more to protect those that they’re effectively preying upon.


How exactly have we “protected” people from cigarette smoking?? All it takes, at least everywhere I’ve ever been (US and Europe primarily) is either: 1. money. and 2. be at least 18 years old (in US). Same with alcohol - the only real restriction on it is “are you 21?” (at least in the US, age restrictions vary place to place obviously). There’s NOTHING in place that prevents people from going into the store every day and buying either alcohol and/or cigarettes and destroying their lives (and the lives of the people they crash into, abuse, etc).

The only thing we’ve “protected” people from is fraud - cigarette companies being allowed to claim there’s no correlation between various cancers/diseases when they knew exactly the opposite. There is ZERO actual protection from something that clearly is terrible for you in every way. But now that they tell the truth (i.e. various warnings about cancer, pregnancy, etc), their liability is pretty much over. The government has basically said “now that you know this is bad for you, buyer beware”. Oh boy, we all feel safer now. .

There’s nothing that prevents someone of the appropriate age from going into a store every single day and buying a product and then smoking/drinking themselves to death. Not one single thing. BUT, the government taxes the **** out of that stuff so they can make a ton of money. Take the city of chicago. A pack of high end cigarettes cost roughly $12. Guess how much of that is taxes (combination of city, federal, state, and county)?? $7.17. That’s right, 60% of the consumer price is TAXES. Look at alcohol and you’ll see the same thing - a huge amount of the consumer cost is TAXES. and what do we get in return for those crazy taxes? Warning labels that the stuff is bad for you, that we’ve all known for decades now. SMDH.

No, not everyone has the same capability for self control or financial common sense. But I really believe it’s not the government’s job to protect people from any little thing that they might do to cause themselves pain. That’s that person’s responsibility and their family and friends’ responsibility. Free Will is human’s greatest gift and greatest curse; when you start taking it away, we aren’t people anymore. And once you start taking free will and freedom away, you only get it back with force.

Take for example Britain, a place that used to have individual freedoms, but is now basically a totalarian spy state. Having made it really difficult to get guns, they are seeing an increasing number of knife attacks. So now they have a radical idea that people shouldn’t be allowed to have sharp kitchen knives, because someone might use them to hurt someone (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/27/knives-sharp-filing-solution-soaring-violent-crime-judge-says/ ). Seems legit. So after people can’t have sharp kitchen knives, are you going to need a government license to own a knife sharpener/grindstone? What happens when people start printing sharp things on 3-D printers, ban those? Or when they just start crushing people’s heads with small bricks? outlaw bricks?

At a certain point you have to realize, we can’t eliminate every single thing in life that could potentially hurt us, or life isn’t worth living anymore.

I’m sure all of that was totally on topic, nothing to see here.


Yeah. Frickin exactly man. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be able to abuse this game, because some will essentially no matter what… I’m saying, they should be warned. SG and other games perpetuating this dangerous mechanic should get taxed higher, and the people playing should have it right in their face that there may be a danger of addiction in what they’re doing.

I’m saying that this game should be taxed all to crap, and some or all of that extra tax should go to advertisement that shows the negative effects of gambling. Maybe you’ve heard of 1-800-gambler … money to support that gotta come from somewhere. And that should be advertised in games that feature gambling. IMO.

Kinda like the Truth campaign, which has been wildly successful. I don’t know if they’re getting part of their operating budget from those taxes or not, but I do trust our government to use tax dollars for the betterment of our nation. And I think that should be a fundamental feeling for all citizens, really.

For some reason you’re taking my suggestion to add SOME regulation and fallaciously assuming that means I want the government to shut the game down to some such malarkey. That’s not what I’m proposing. I’m hoping that’ll happen organically over time, but who knows.

Edit; how have we protected people from smoking in the USA? Arming them with knowledge and creating a social movement based upon that knowledge. Because of this teen smoking is down from ~25% in 2000 to 6% today. Knowledge and correct branding are important. Will some people still decide they want to do “bad” things (this is objectively bad for long term health but still an individual has the right to choose), … yes. Yes they will. And that’s okay. But they should be informed and aware, at least.


Hi Dante
I have massive respect for your knowledge of E&P and really enjoy your posts. This isn’t the forum for a for a ■■■-for-tat ‘my county’s legal system is best’, but what your talking about is my professional field in the UK and I can speak from personal experience that this is a very safe place to live; comparison to a totalitarian state is unfounded and quite inflammatory.
The article you posted concerns the personal opinion of a retired judge, this is not the law or even due to become law in the UK.

But I look forward to reading lots more of your game related wisdom in the future.


$.02 on the topic here:

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about legal gambling, and how much it should be regulated. It is a thorny, complicated issue…and probably one we won’t resolve here. Neither are questions about whether we trust government or corporations to look after our interests better.

That said, SG (and apparently many other games) are using a loophole to weasel around some existing regulations, which appear to be corporate (aka from Apple, perhaps Google has similar policies?), not government ones.

If you bought summon tokens with game purchases that consumed money, they would be required to show odds.

Instead, you buy gems (with game purchases that consume money), and what you get for your currency is a fixed item, there are no odds to disclose for the purchase.

But what most of us actually DO with those gems that we bought with money is use them to buy summons, with odds of giving us what we want, which aren’t disclosed.

It is a neat way around the regulation. It is also something that the folks who wrote the regulation are probably wishing they ha drafted differently prevent, since their goal with the regulation was (successfully) circumvented while the letter of the regulation was followed. Perhaps they will re-write that to cover this situation.



At lot makes more sense when you discover the government does not actually care about gambling, otherwise baseball cards might be regulated, they care about gambling as a tool for money launderers.

3rd party sites help money laundering, trade for items of real value helps money laundering, unlimited virtual items helps money laundering.

Selling a physical card like the Black Lotus, does not help laundering money.

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Yes so to @Duaneski or anyone who says this game is gambling and should be classified as such - do you also think any collectible card game that has foils, ultra-rares, etc (Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, sports cards as mentioned, etc) should also be classified as gambling? Because you can just as easily sit there opening pack after pack at a store or from ordering online hunting for that ultra-rare or foil card that’s only going to appear in 1 out of every X packs.

Because the argument of “well you don’t know exactly what you’re getting” applies to all of that as well. It can’t just be that the odds are posted or known in one case because that’s applies to roulette too.

I don’t think this is going to be resolved here.

I think each person’s opinion on the necessary level of state interference in private life is very individual and based on all sorts of personal and cultural influences and experiences.

Some territories err on the side of state control in order to, potentially, protect people. Others put greater emphasis on individual liberty with, potentially, the risk of people falling through the gaps.

The cultural norms of countries that share many common values may still seem very alien.

For instance, I cannot imagine the UK allowing widespread public gun ownership. Whereas many in the US consider this sacrosanct. UK citizens might argue that this reduces gun violence, while US citizens might argue, as @Dante2377 says, that the citizenry need the capacity to protect themselves from the government, should they need to.

So each person’s opinion on whether E&P constitutes gambling and whether the state should regulate it is unlikely to be changed in this forum.

Perhaps we could discuss whether Gravemaker is a game changer and how he compares with other HOTM?


Good, fair question there, I believe. I can see the relevancy.

And I would be fine with MtG booster packs being classified and marketed as gambling. I think that’s fair.

Some things to consider about mtg and most CCG specifically that make them differ significantly from E&P though: you do get a physical item with value attached to it. This doesn’t make it not gambling, BUT it does mean that IF/WHEN an individual makes an exceedingly poor life choice and dumps too much of their money into the game, they have the possibility to redeem a percentage of that loss by selling their cards.

Additionally, the aftermarket for mtg essentially ensures that players can directly purchase a specific card or set of cards, and know bothnexactly what they’re getting and how much it costs. (I bought a couple booster boxes $200 or so back in the day with my friends. We did that when new expansions came out back in 7th edition. After we did it twice we kinda started to wise up that it was a poor investment… when we found a website selling cards out of Seattle, and you could get a set of 4x GOOD rares exactly what you wanted for $10… man it was game over)

But yeah booster packs are gambling lol. So id be good with them being labeled and taxed as such.

We can hopefully learn and grow from each other’s perspectives despite being unlikely to agree lol… I’m imagining, as you’re suggesting, that Dante has a much different worldview than I do, and it’s almost certainly shaped by experience. So, there’s value in that to consider… this intelligent individual is very wary of government.

And at the same time, I am firm in my beliefs, and optimism/naivety. So maybe some of that will at least get in the air around him heh.

I think there are already threads to discuss gravemaker. This thread is decidedly not for that purpose. If you’re suggesting this thread should die and I should go discuss gravemaker in that thread, I would just say: he’s objectively awesome and I wish I had him. I don’t feel the need to discuss that or the nuance that does or doesn’t make him awesome. I have much more interest in discussing the underlying game mechanics, and the broader, more abstract topics related to gaming / E&P :slight_smile:


As you were then, good Duaneski. I’m not going to hijack your thread, but I know that we were straying into some emotionally charged territory and it would be a shame to fall out over some entrenched political beliefs.

And, absolutely agreed that a mutual exchange of ideas and perspective is the way to grow. If only it would feed my heroes, as well as my mind…

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So all government/politics aside (and tbh probably best left aside), the fact that you would consider anything that has ANY RANDOM CHANCE AT ALL in it “gambling” and thus needing to be classified and marketed and taxed as gambling is truly horrifying to me. I can’t even comprehend how you can lump that in the same vein as casino games and lotto tickets.

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Glad to be able to horrify, I guess.

play games of chance for money; bet.
“she was fond of gambling on cards and horses”
synonyms: bet, place/lay a bet on something, stake money on something, back the horses, game; informalplay the ponies
“he started to gamble more often”
take risky action in the hope of a desired result.

By those definitions I can not see how you would not consider buying a booster pack or E&P “gambling”

Should they be lumped in with casino? Well. That’s tricky. I think the simplest answer is yes. My rationale: what do we lose by lumping them together? And what do we lose by not lumping them together?

It’s only considered gambling if you are required to pay in order to win. You are not required to purchase or pay anything to play this game. The loop hole is that the in game currency can be used to do other things that don’t give you or anyone else an unfair advantage such as changing you name or adding extra hero slots. I don’t like that they try to regulate games because of the ability to purchase in game items. The real issue is the people who lack the ability to control themselves.


definition #1 requires receiving money. You are not playing a game of anything for money. You are not wagering on an outcome where you get any money. Almost any hobbies or games require you to INPUT money. It’s only gambling, in that sense of the word, when you wager money on an outcome or series of outcomes and then get or don’t get money back based on a random outcome. Buying a booster pack of cards IS NOT gambling because you are buying a product. Sure you don’t know exactly what’s in it, but roughly. You don’t get money directly based on what’s in the card pack. (sure there is a secondary market for some things, but that’s totally perverting the term “gambling”. you can sell anything to someone at least once).

If you’re going to call opening packs of MTG “gambling”, the pinball games are “gambling” too - you put in a few quarters and random stuff happens. Maybe you get a free game or a high score; maybe you don’t.

as for definition #2, that’s not related to gaming at all, but a separate definition of the word. I assume you’re not talking about that one here.

Whether E&P ought to be regulated is up for discussion, but whether there is a gambling aspect to it is not: there clearly is. Gambling, in the common use of the word, does not require a cash payout; it simply requires that the process undertaken be uncertain and the results varied. We can gamble for drinks, gamble our team songs on a game, gamble on which cup the little ball is under, gamble on who has the burnt match to see who has to drive tonight, gamble on driving drunk, gamble on a law degree having some actual use, or gamble pink slips on whose hot rod can win the race up the old aquaduct. E&P is built on a foundation of low probability gambling, and funded by those who fork out cash on it - quite a lot of cash, in some cases.

So @Duaneski’s second definition is precisely on point. Should it be regulated? I’m probably the wrong person to ask - I’m not really sensitive to the dopamine buzz that makes many susceptible to gambling, so it’s tough for me to assess the seriousness of any danger here. However it bears observing that:

  1. Many aspects of the game - multi-summons packs in particular - are obviously designed to generate a nice little dopamine feedback loop. I doubt that’s accidental.

  2. Many players have posted to the forum that they spent a lot of cash on summons and were left bitterly disappointed - angry even - at the results. When well meaning fools like myself have pointed out that summons are just very low probability gambles, like lottery tickets, umbrage has often been taken. This may be indicative of a problem. Certainly it is not something that SG have been rushing to fix by being nice and open about the underlying odds. That might be a good reason to consider regulation.


I don’t believe it does. I think your entire tree of thought sorta hinges on that line, and I don’t think that’s a true premise…


The definitions of gambling I posted above aren’t mine. That came from dictionary.com. I included the second definition as I felt it was relevant.

Edit 2:

This stuff does scare me… and I know this is purely qualitative but I think this is exactly what we are talking about: