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Spanish gambling regulator the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) has opened a consultation asking whether loot boxes should require new regulation, be regulated as gambling products or prohibited entirely.

The DGOJ pointed out that loot boxes have “quickly become a very relevant business model” in both paid and free-to-play games.

It said around half of the mobile games and 35% of computer games contain the mechanic. Loot boxes are “blind-boxed” items that players purchase for a fee, for the chance to obtain valuable in-game items.

It also said that loot boxes share many features with gambling products, including “near misses” and “losses disguised as wins.”

The regulator explained that under Spain’s Gambling Act, gambling involves payment for participation, chance in determining the result and a prize transferred to the winner.

The DGOJ, therefore, said loot boxes could clearly be considered gambling. This depended on whether the purchase of the box was an action distinct from purchase of the game, if the prize depended on chance and if the prize could be exchanged – inside or outside of the game – for money.

“This legal definition, known and assimilated by all entities with activity related to gambling and betting, is also applicable to loot boxes. It is irrelevant if that reward is a cosmetic improvement in the video game or competitive advantage for the player who obtains it,” DGOJ said.

The consultation lasts until March 31, with the regulator accepting submissions by email.