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EA loot box lawsuit fails in bid to brand games as gambling

But class-action can proceed on claims of "deceptive acts or practices".

FIFA 23 TOTW 7
Image credit: EA Sports

A judge has ruled against a class-action lawsuit which aimed to brand loot boxes in EA games like FIFA as "unlawful gambling".

However, the judge has allowed a separate part of the lawsuit to go ahead - one which seeks to claim that EA games adopted "deceptive and unconsionable acts or practices" under a Canadian consumer protection act.

Responding to the news via GamesIndustry.biz, an EA spokesperson stated: "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."

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A key factor in the judge's decision appears to be the fact games like FIFA do not obviously allow you to "cash out" the money you put in - although, there are unofficial ways to do just that.

Without this ability in-game, however, the judge said that any lawsuit hoping to prove EA's antics constituted "unlawful gambling" were "bound to fail".

"There is no prospect of gaining, or losing, anything with a real-world value through the defendants' in-house auctions," Judge Justice Fleming stated. "Unlike a casino chip, virtual currency and virtual items in loot boxes can never be 'cashed out' to gain money.

"Given that wagering or a bet must involve the chance of winning or losing real money or money’s worth, in my view, only the allegation of purchasing and selling virtual items through third-party marketplaces could support this element."

The lawsuit's plaintiff, Mark Sutherland, is hoping to gain compensation from EA for the way the company has operated loot boxes in more than 70 titles since 2008.

Previous research has "robustly verified" a link between loot boxes and problem gambling, and the issue of how EA makes its millions from games such as FIFA is often in the headlines.

Just this month, an Austrian court ruled that FIFA violated the country's gambling laws, and ordered Sony to refund payments on PlayStation.

This time last year, however, EA managed to get a €10m fine from Dutch authorities over FIFA lootboxes reversed after years of legal wrangling.

Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole sat down with EA for a frank discussion about the company's use of lootboxes at the end of 2021. It's well worth a read.

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