FIFA's Ultimate Team could be regulated under gambling laws in the UK

Popular football video game FIFA could be regulated under gambling laws in the UK… with loot boxes and microtransactions in Ultimate Team mode ‘teaching kids to gamble’

  • Ultimate Team on FIFA allows players to purchase packs to improve their team
  • Users can spend their actual money on improving their star-studded line-ups 
  • But the House of Lords Gambling Committee has its concerns over loot boxes
  • Such microtransactions could now be regulated under UK gambling laws

The popular Ultimate Team mode in EA Sports’ FIFA video games could potentially be regulated under gambling laws in the UK.

Ultimate Team allows gamers to build their star-studded line-ups, play other users online and spend actual money on purchasing packs for random players. 

But the BBC reports that the House of Lords Gambling Committee is calling for aspects of video games such as Ultimate Team, coined under the wider umbrella of loot boxes and microtransactions, to be regulated under gambling laws. 

Ultimate Team allows gamers to spend money on packs – but it could be regulated in the future

The popular mode is an example of loot boxes and microtransactions which could be regulated

What is a loot box? 

Loot boxes are virtual treasure chests containing undisclosed items that can be used in games. 

Loot boxes are a key feature of many online games. They have come under fire for using techniques to push players to spend money while gaming. 

Some researchers have noted an overlap between loot boxes and problem gambling. 

What are microtransactions? 

Microtransactions are in-game purchases that unlock specific features or gives the user special abilities, characters or content. The purchases are virtual.  

Loot boxes have been defined by the UK Parliament as ‘items in video games that may be bought for real-world money, but which provide players with a randomised reward of uncertain value.’

The House of Lords suggests that such aspects of video games come under ‘games of chance’, meaning they would need to be watched over as part of the Gambling Act 2005. 

Regulation would include games having to explicitly state to users that loot boxes are ‘games of chance’, with the same definition applying to any other in-game item paid for with real money. 

Chairman of the committee Lord Grade told BBC Breakfast that other countries have already started to regulate loot boxes because it is teaching ‘kids to gamble’.

He said the Gambling Act was ‘way behind what was actually happening in the market’ and added the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the report’s recommendations ‘could be enacted today’. 

The report from the Committee detailed: ‘If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling.’

The report also notes that children are ‘most at risk’ of becoming problem gamblers, with 55,000 current problem gamblers aged between 11-16.

Jadon Sancho appears in FIFA’s Ultimate Team, where users can spend to improve their teams

The UK games industry, through its trade association Ukie (The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment) responded to the report with a statement about their work on loot boxes and gambling.

‘In January this year the industry launched its wide reaching “Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. Campaign”, which has sought to increase the use of family controls to help parents and carers manage, limit or turn off spend in games. 

‘The major platforms have also committed to require all games featuring loot boxes to publicly disclose probabilities. 

‘The PEGI age rating system has also introduced a “paid random item” descriptor to inform consumers of where loot boxes are featured in games.

‘The majority of people in the UK play video games in one form or another, so we take these concerns seriously. 

‘We’ve worked hard to increase the use of family controls on consoles which can turn off or limit spending and we will be working closely with the DCMS during its review of the Gambling Act later this year.’

Three of the Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldinho’s ICON cards in FIFA 20’s Ultimate Team 

There is a concern over the 55,000 current problem gamblers who are aged between 11-16

Loot boxes have been heavily criticised in the gaming industry and publishers have faced backlash over its implementation in various video games. 

Belgium took action against loot boxes two years ago after placing a ban on them, while the Netherlands took the same stance – also in 2018.  

A lawsuit in France was launched against EA – Electronic Arts – in April this year that called for Ultimate Team to be ‘classified as gambling.’  




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