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Are loot boxes gambling?

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2020 | Class Action

Recently, there have been a number of class action cases brought against both Electronic Arts and Apple regarding the use of loot boxes in games. In the case of Apple, the class action suit in California alleges that since Apple indirectly profited from the proliferation of games with loot boxes, Apple is liable for “predatory practices.”

The class action lawsuits concern whether or not the presence of loot boxes in games constitutes gambling. According to Games Industry, a class action lawsuit filed against Apple in the state of California states that the presence of games with loot boxes entices children to gamble and is in violation of multiple laws.

What is a loot box?

A “loot box” is a mystery item that appears in games available for purchase. Players can purchase a loot box and, in return, receive a prize of varying rareness. Players might receive a “skin” for a character to make the character appear different, or a catchphrase for a character to say.

Loot boxes often cost around the same amount as a lottery ticket. The class action lawsuit against Apple states that the presence of loot boxes specifically violates the California Penal Code on what defines an “illegal gambling device.”

Do loot boxes constitute illegal gambling?

This depends on who you ask and may vary greatly state to state. There is no consensus in either legal or academic circles in the US regarding the status of loot boxes relative to gambling.
In Ohio, only gambling permitted by the Ohio Constitution or the Ohio General Assembly is allowed. Therefore, in addition to the predatory practices alleged in other lawsuits, video game developers that take money for loot boxes from Ohioans may be engaging in unlawful gambling in Ohio.

What should I do if I or someone I know spent money on loot boxes?

You should contact an attorney to learn what your rights are.

Is it worth my time to contact an attorney if I only lost a few dollars?

It might be. For example, in certain situations in Ohio, if you or someone you are dependent on for support spent money on an unlawful gambling activity, you may be able to recover the actual money plus up to an additional $500. See R.C. 3763.08.

If you or someone you are dependent on for support spent money on a loot box, and would like to have a free consultation with an attorney, please contact Markovits, Stock & DeMarco at (513)-651-3700 or [email protected].