A UK-based gambling watchdog has found that loot boxes in FIFA and other video games do not constitute gambling, at least under current laws. Loot boxes in games have come under international scrutiny in the past few years due to concerns from both players and governments over whether they should be classified as gambling.
Members of Parliament in the UK have recently been leading an inquiry into "addictive technologies," especially video games and the way their publishers implement loot boxes. Many people inside and outside the video game industry believe that loot boxes are a predatory practice and can become a gateway to gambling addiction for younger players. Just last year, Belgium and the Netherlands became the first to ban loot boxes after determining that loot boxes qualify as gambling, and are therefore illegal in their territories.
The UK, on the other hand, is having more trouble deciding what to do about loot boxes and other similar practices. According to the BBC, the Gambling Commission has warned that it cannot currently oversee loot boxes because there is no official way to monetize their contents. In order to fall under gambling legislation in the UK, a prize must have a determined monetary value or be money itself. This makes loot boxes rather difficult to define and regulate under current UK law. The prime example was player packs in the FIFA games, but this also applies to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Overwatch, and plenty of other games with some sort of paid chance-based mechanic used to acquire unknown rewards.
However, while loot box contents may have no official value, there have been (and still are) plenty of third-party websites which enable players to literally gamble the content they acquire from loot boxes in virtual casino games, offering them the chance to generate real money. This is called "skin betting," and is prohibited by most game publishers in their terms of service. Yet it continues to be a problem, and the Gambling Commission has said that it isn't enough for publishers to simply say that they "don't want this happening."
All of this points to the inherent conflict between publisher culture surrounding loot boxes and consumers. Major game publishers like EA - who are most likely to implement loot boxes into their games - have refused to view them as a problem, instead trying to label them as "surprise mechanics." With loot box spending estimated to hit $50 billion by 2022, the practice doesn't seem to be changing. Since the industry won't do anything about the issue, governments have increasingly stepped in to address loot boxes and their effects, which may be the consumer's only hope for better business at this point.