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Question

38. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Department considers loot boxes and mystery boxes in video games a form of gambling or an e-commerce activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4383/19]

Answer

Deputy David Stanton: The Deputy will be aware that I have previously addressed the issue of loot boxes and whether they constitute a gambling or e-commerce offering. A licence is required under the Betting Acts 1931 to 2015 or the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 to sell gambling products, and gaming, as defined under the latter Act, is covered in that regard. While the Minister for Justice and Equality has certain responsibilities under both Acts, the Revenue Commissioners are the responsible licensing authority. In the context of video games, if a game sought to offer an activity or items for purchase that fall under the current Irish legal definition of gambling, the manufacturer of the game would require a relevant licence. To the best of our knowledge, no manufacturer has sought such licensing by gambling regulators in Ireland or other EU member states to date.
If a game offers in-game purchases, however, that are advertised to increase the chances of success in the game but do not fall within the current Irish legal definition of gambling, such purchases are an e-commerce activity. This would fall within recourse to normal consumer law where there is dissatisfaction on the part of the customer with the purchase. However one might regard in-game purchases and how they may be marketed, it must be clear that they fall within the legal definition of a gambling activity to engage the regulatory attention of my or other Departments responsible for that regulation. This position is shared by other EU member states.
I have been made aware of so-called mystery boxes, which are items offered for purchase through Internet platforms such as YouTube. I am advised they appear to be in the nature of lucky dip-type purchases and, as such, do not come under the definition of gambling. My earlier comments, therefore, regarding the requirement for a gambling licence also apply in this instance.
Through the Department of Justice and Equality, Ireland was happy to lend its support to the recent declaration issued by the Gaming Regulators European Forum, concerning the blurring of lines between gambling and gaming. The declaration reflects concern among national authorities as to whether gaming products such as video games should be appropriately licensed if they offer gambling possibilities. The declaration was intended to indicate to the gaming industry concerns expressed by several states that certain player-to-player gaming products may, in the context of in-game purchases, fall within the category of gambling as defined under their national laws. Although the declaration does not have any legal effect, Ireland will continue to co-operate with other member states in the matter.