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Video game loot boxes exposing children to gambling must end, says Fianna Fáil

Jim O’Callaghan said a Gambling Regulator needs to be in place by the end of the year.

Image: Shutterstock/Pixel-Shot

VIDEO GAME LOOT box gambling must be tackled, according to Fianna Fáil, who said today that it entices children into gambling. 

Some practices of buying items in video games constitute a form of gambling that children are being exposed to, said justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan today. 

In-game purchases and downloadable content that supplement the actual game can all come at a cost in popular games such as FIFA, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty.

These are referred to as loot boxes – you can spend money or use points earned in the game to acquire them – where you’re taking a punt hoping you’re acquiring top quality features for the video game.

Speaking to reporters today, O’Callaghan said:

“Gambling has become a serious problem that is destroying lives in Ireland. Children are being lured into gambling through online-video games that use loot boxes.

“There are many games out there like Fortnight that attract children to play on the basis that at the end of their obstacle course or at the end of their game there will be a loot box there and some piece of money available for them,” he said. 

“I think we have to be conscious that if we are going to allow children to be influenced by the prospect that if they excel at something there is going to be a pot of money for them it entices them into the long-term into gambling.”

Today, the creators of Fortnite said they are changing some loot boxes so you will be able to see what’s inside before buying them. The boxes contain random items and customise options, but typically you don’t know what you’re going to get.

In Fortnite, the loot llamas – available to buy in the Save the World game mode – can be bought using the game’s special money called V-Bucks. At the moment, a player can buy 1,000 V-bucks for €9. 

O’Callaghan said that children are exposed at all walks of life to pressures.

“We try and protect them as as a State – we try to protect them from tobacco, we try and protect them from alcohol and similarly we should try and protect them from the dangers posed by gambling,” he said. 

Gambling has changed in recent years, with O’Callaghan stating that “in the old days a man went into a bookies and the worst thing that could happen was he lost a week’s wages.

While he said that was bad enough, now they can gamble with credit cards and money that they don’t have. 

In addition to tackling gambling in video games, Fianna Fáil want to create whistle-to-whistle betting, or in-game betting, which will only allow people to put down bets during the course of a sports game or event. 

Additionally, the party wants to ban credit card gambling, something that has been recently been banned by the UK regulator.

O’Callaghan hit out against Fine Gael for pledging in their last manifesto, as well as the programme for government, to deal with the issue of gambling, stating that it is unbelievable that Ireland does not have a Gambling Regulator. 

Last summer, the government said the measures first mooted in the Gambling Control Bill (2013) were finally set to be enacted, with the Taoiseach stating that it would take 18 months for a regulator to be set up. Minister of State David Stanton, who was charged with rolling out the legislation, indicated that the provision for video games may be included in future laws.

O’Callaghan said dealing with the gambling industry is a priority for Fianna Fáil and pledged that with his party in government, a regulator would be set up by the end of the year. 

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