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Norwegian Scholar to Review Whether Loot Boxes Constitute Gambling

A Norwegian scholar will open loot boxes in video games to determine their nature and whether these constitute gambling, Norwegian media outlet Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK) reports.

Norway is the next to review the in-game items after the gambling regulators of the Netherlands and Belgium have recently published the results of their own investigations into the widely publicized matter. The two regulatory bodies have found that the loot box systems of a number of popular video games violate Dutch and Belgian gambling laws.

Rune Mentzoni, an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychosocial at the University of Bergen, will purchase loot boxes featured in the FIFA Ultimate Team video game worth NOK50,000 (approx. $6,248) as part of his study. Mr. Mentzoni told media that this would help him determine whether loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling. His findings will be presented to the Norwegian Gaming Authority (Lotteri- og stiftelsestilsynet) and other regulators.

The scholar explained that he believes the purchase of loot boxes and the fact that they contain a random selection of items in terms of their value very much resembles playing on a slot machine. According to him, the in-game purchasable items are often a loss disguised as a win. The Dutch Gambling Authority drew a similar conclusion in its review of the nature of loot boxes, saying that these acted like slot machines as they could be opened unlimited times and deployed the “near-miss” effect.

The Norwegian Ministry of Culture has assembled a special committee to probe into the matter and determine whether loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling.

Trude Felde, a Senior Advisor to Norway’s gambling regulator, told NRK that an investigation could provide good arguments for a change in the country’s current law. She further pointed out that when crafting new regulations, regulators and legislators need to bear in mind that circumstance and technology change very quickly, therefore any new rules need to be developed in a more “technology-neutral” manner.

New Gambling Law

News emerged earlier this week that a coalition of four parties has submitted a legislation aimed at preventing unlicensed gambling operations from targeting local gambling customers. The new rules secured a majority at a Tuesday vote, but legislators are yet adopt them. This is expected to happen by May 7.

Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are the two state-run entities that are authorized to provide gambling services in Norway. Despite previous proposals for the creation of a regulatory framework that would allow foreign operators to obtain licenses from the national regulator and operate in a regulated environment, the country’s government has maintained that the monopoly system is the most socially responsible one and there is no need for it to be replaced.

Under the new rules, the Norwegian Gaming Authority will be able to penalize foreign operators targeting local players despite the existing ban. In addition, DNS blocking will be introduced to ensure that local players are not targeted by unlicensed companies.

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