The British government should regulate loot boxes under gambling law, a parliamentary inquiry has recommended.
After nearly nine months of evidence gathering, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee today published its 84-page report into immersive and addictive technologies.
Chief among its list of recommendations were that paid loot boxes should be regulated under gambling law, and there be a ban on selling them to children.
The inquiry took evidence from all corners of the industry -- including developers, trade bodies, and academics -- and reported a "lack of honesty and transparency" among social media and game company representatives.
DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins MP said it was time for gaming and social media companies to be more responsible, and challenged the government's current stance that loot boxes aren't gambling.
If the government wants to maintain that position even in light of the DCMS report, the committee said it should publish a paper explaining why loot boxes are exempt from the Gambling Act.
The committee noted that evidence around the potential harms of simulated gambling on children remains thin, and therefore recommended a precautionary approach going forward.
Additionally, the committee suggested that the UK government should advise PEGI to apply the existing gambling content label, and corresponding age limits, to games that feature loot boxes or similar mechanics of obfuscation and chance.
Aside from loot boxes, the scathing report recommended the games industry take responsibility for protecting players against potential harms and support independent research on the "long-term effects of gaming." It also expressed "serious concern" at the lack of robust age-verification systems.
Following the formal classification of gaming disorder by the World Health Organisation earlier this year, the committee also suggested the department should begin working with independent researchers immediately -- funded in-part by an industry tax -- and with game companies sharing aggregated player data.