Loot Boxes: Is it Gambling or not?
There’s been a lot of discussion about the loot boxes lately, even among ourselves here. The opinions on them are strong both for and against with opinions ranging from it’s an all out scam to it’s illegal gambling to it’s just a marketing gimmick and all points in between.
This post isn’t to argue every aspect of the boxes, but rather to determine whether the multiple “gambling” references made by many actually hold any water.
Let’s look at the add for a moment:
Now on it’s face, we can safely assume that you’re going to get three items. There is no such thing as an empty box. That, in and of itself, would seem to remove any marriage to gambling.
Gambling in it’s purest essence is an all or nothing proposition. When you play a game of blackjack, you either win and collect more money than you spent, or you lose and all of your money is gone. There is no in between.
Now, for ages they tried to argue that the “entertainment value” obtained by the wager removed the idea that it was gambling. They’ve tried that argument with video poker, horse racing, and many other forms of gambling.
All have failed.
Loot boxes though take the idea of gambling out a whole new door. To wit:
With these loot boxes in their simplest form, you get three items. The items listed that it could be range in value. So if we look at each item costing $2.00 ($5.99 / 3 = 1.996 rounds to 2) and we look at the price of the 250 gold, we see something interesting.
The minimum amount of gold you can buy is off of the “any amount of gold” option in the store. The minimum amount you can buy is 500. 500 gold cost $2.97.
So, if you BUY the minimum amount, you’re paying .006 cents per gold piece.
If you WIN the 250 gold in a box, you’re actually paying .008 cents per gold piece.
So, in the end, you’re paying 33.3% MORE for the gold you win in the box than the gold you buy at the store.
Now, for some, that may not mean anything. But consider this: YOU ARE LOSING MONEY IF YOU WIN THE 250 GOLD. Reason being, what you are winning is worth LESS than what you wagered by buying the loot box to begin with.
That is the very essence of gambling: losing your money.
Now, it’s also likely you could win a Tier 8 premium tank. That, on average, is $51.00 and is a HUGE incentive to buy the “loot boxes” to begin with. One might say that it’s very similar to putting 500 to 1 odds on a horse race – the potential payoff is just so huge, that people simply can’t resist giving it a go.
To take it one step further, these boxes also offer in game consumables costing only a fraction of the gold rate which means you lose even more money than you spent for the loot box to begin with should you “win” them.
I’m sure that Wargaming’s thought on this legally was that “as long as you’re getting something for your money, it isn’t gambling”.
This is where they are patently wrong. If you stand ANY chance of LOSING MONEY, it is GAMBLING.
It is clear that these loot boxes in their simplest form almost guarantee you to lose money in some cases. That is the essence of gambling and how they make money doing it.