Austrian Court Rules FUT Packs as Illegal Gambling
PlayStation ordered to refund Austrian FIFA players after court rules FUT packs violated gambling laws, orders EA to label packs as such.
A court in Hermagor, Austria has recently ruled that FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) packs are a form of gambling, thereby violating Austria’s gambling laws. As a result, PlayStation has been ordered to refund Austrian FIFA players who have allegedly “gambled away” hundreds of euros on FUT packs. Electronic Arts (EA), the game’s developer, has been ordered to label FUT packs as “gambling games that require a license.”
The plaintiffs in the case, which includes one minor, have reportedly lost money on FUT packs due to the uncertain monetary value of the packs. The court alleges that these loot boxes can be classified as “illegal gambling,” according to lawyer Ulrich Salburg. While most claims are for around €800, one particularly extreme case involves a loss of up to €85,000.
The court has ordered Sony to replay €338.26 to the plaintiffs, and both Sony and EA have yet to comment on the judgment. However, they can still challenge the verdict on appeal.
This ruling comes amid growing concerns about the use of loot boxes in video games, with some countries already regulating them as gambling or considering doing so. Loot boxes are virtual items that players can purchase in games, which contain randomized rewards. The rewards can range from cosmetic items to powerful in-game advantages, and their uncertain value has led to criticism that they are essentially a form of gambling.
The issue of loot boxes has become increasingly controversial in recent years, with several countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom banning or regulating them as gambling. In response, some game developers have removed loot boxes from their games entirely, while others have implemented warning labels or altered their mechanics to make them less like gambling.
In related news, a recent study conducted by Leon Y Xiao in cooperation with universities in Denmark, London, and the US found that warnings for games with loot box-style mechanics are inconsistent and unreliable. The study examined a randomized selection of smartphone games available to download from the Google Play Store, with the aim of evaluating the consistency of loot box presence warnings across PEGI and the ERSB, as well as the consistency of age ratings on the Google Play Store overseen by the IARC.
As the controversy over loot boxes in video games continues, it remains to be seen how other courts and countries will respond to this issue. Nevertheless, this recent ruling in Austria serves as a warning to game developers and publishers that loot boxes can have significant legal and financial implications if they are found to be a form of gambling.