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Loot boxes: not gambling, says Canadian judge

But by allowing the rest of the class action suit to continue, Electronic Arts aren’t out of the woods yet
Loot boxes: not gambling, says Canadian judge
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Electronic Arts has found itself as the defendant of a class action lawsuit in Canada surrounding the use of loot boxes. However, while Judge Justice Fleming seemingly agrees that plaintiff Mark Sutherland’s argument that the company is engaging in deceptive business practices, he has asked the plaintiff to amend his claims that loot boxes constitute gambling after finding insufficient reason to classify them as such, reports

Sutherland has accused the gaming giant of “deceptive and unconscionable acts or practices” under the British Columbia’s Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, specifically engaging in unlawful gaming or gambling and committing “multiple offences in Part Seven of the Criminal Code.” For this reason, he is claiming damages on behalf of all BC residents who have purchased loot boxes in more than 70 EA games since 2018.

However, while Judge Justice Fleming is allowing the suit to proceed, those specific claims relating to gambling cannot. Sutherland has been given leave to amend his claim to focus entirely on allegations of EA’s deceptive business practices.

Gaming or gambling?

Part of this decision relates to allegations from Sutherland that loot boxes have intrinsic value as they can be sold via auction and third-party marketplaces. However, Sutherland stated that loot boxes can only be purchased via EA’s own auctions for virtual currency and “consequently, there is no prospect of gaining, or losing, anything with a real-world value through the defendants’ in-house auctions.

Regarding his decision to strike allegations of illegal gambling from the case, Fleming stated “recognizing my gate-keeping function at this stage of the proceedings, I view striking this aspect of the claim as in the interests of effective and fair litigation."

In a statement following the Judge’s decision, EA said: "We’re pleased that the trial court rejected, as a matter of law, the allegations of unlawful gaming. The court’s decision reaffirms our position that nothing in our games constitutes gambling."

This decision puts Canada at odds with several other territories that have ruled against companies utilising loot boxes in games, with some countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands banning them entirely. EA itself found itself at the centre of a landmark case in Austria earlier this month, with a court choosing to classify loot boxes as gambling.

We listed Electronic Arts as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.