The Flemish Games Association (FLEGA) believes that Belgium's crackdown on loot boxes is wrong and suggests that the Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) is using the video gaming industry as a scapegoat. In 2018, Belgium, along with The Netherlands, determined that video game loot boxes constituted a form of illegal gambling and began to pressure game developers into removing them altogether.
Loot boxes consist of virtual items, such as special weapons and armor, that players purchase with real money. In most cases, players have no idea what they're buying, meaning that they may or may not get their money's worth. Loot boxes are especially common in multiplayer and free to play games, which use them as a form of monetization. However, because gamers do not know what they're purchasing ahead of time, the BGC determined that the practice is illegal according to Belgium's gambling laws. As such, the BGC threatened fines and jail time for companies who continue to break those laws.
However, according to GamesIndustry.biz, FLEGA does not believe that loot boxes constitute illegal gambling and feel that the BGC has unfairly targeted the video gaming industry. FLEGA spokesman David Verbruggen believes that the BGC is engaged in a witch hunt against the gaming industry. He alleged that the initial BGC report was leaked to the press without discussing the matter with elected commission officials. He also claimed that the BGC didn't consult with stakeholders in the industry while working on the report. Verbruggen said:
"Framing is maybe too harsh a word, but it feels that way; it feels like we're being framed. Then we're asking ourselves, 'Why?' What does the commission want to achieve? Do they want more money for their operations? Do they want to fund the state treasure chest? It's also about taxation. It's about gambling licenses. It's about money. You will have to pay the gambling commission to be able to continue to do paid loot boxes. I'm not talking about a moral dilemma here."
The BGC, however, disagrees, suggesting that FLEGA is wrong. BGC director Peter Naessens said he had not heard any previous complaints about the report being leaked to the press and made assurances that access was made to the final report before members met over it. He also stated that industry stakeholders were consulted and that everyone on the commission unanimously agreed with the report. Other countries also seem to agree with Belgium: in the U.S., an anti-loot box bill is gaining ground in the Senate.
Although gamers could spend up to $50 billion on loot boxes in the next four years, the practice has started to come under serious fire, especially after a U.K. study suggested that video game loot boxes contribute to child gambling problems. Loot boxes fit the definition of illegal gambling by most countries' laws, and as such, should be regulated. FLEGA is wrong in defending loot boxes, and it's likely that Belgium won't be the only country to ban them.