Videogames in South Korea and Gambling Loot Boxes in Ireland

GamingLawPills brings news on a South Korean bill aimed at punishing sexual harassment in videogames and on growing concerns over gambling loot boxes in Ireland.

Sexual harassment in videogames in South Korea

The bill is initiated by a representative from the South Korean National Assembly Gender Equality and Family Committee to punish sexual harassment using voice chat in online video games. The decision comes from evidence obtained through the video game called Overwatch. In Overwatch, players can chat by the usage of text and voice systems to coordinate teammates. According to the press release of the Secretary of the mentioned Committee: “in this game, sexual harassment is rampant“. However, on the other side, the developer Blizzard Entertaintment clarified that Overwatch-chat system allows either to report players for bad behaviour and spot toxic players due to the usage of an integrated artificial intelligence

At the moment, South Korean laws have no explicit penalties for sexual harassment that occur in online videogaming space and the suggested punishments are not still detailed in the proposed bill.

South Korea is always been at the forefront in the field of supervising players behaviour in videogames. With the presence of a strong infrastructure to punish cybercrimes and hack creator, South Korea is also for instance the first country that is trying to regulate the boosting phenomenon (i.e. professional surrogate players who take another player’s account in order to raise it in exchange for large amount of money).

We will follow the developments of the matter, but it is likely that this will become a topic of attention for both regulators and developers.

Declaration over Gambling Loot Boxes in Ireland

Loot boxes are virtual items which game players can buy or unlock using real money without knowing what other virtual bonuses are inside.

After that the French Gaming Regulator reflected concerns about the impact of loot boxes on online gaming, a number of European countries launched a crackdown on certain games with loot boxes on the basis that games which allow loot box contents to be sold for cash are effectively facilitating gambling. In a recent  declaration by more than a dozen gambling authorities, including Ireland, have been highlighted the concerns with the risks being posed by the “blurring” of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment, such as loot boxes.

According to the Irish Minister of Justice:

where a game offers the possibility of placing a bet or the taking of risk for financial reward within the game, then, in my view it must be licensed as a gambling product“.

However, no immediate crackdown would take place in Ireland.

In Ireland, the Department of Justice does not have a role to regulate game developers. Therefore, the Government is currently pursuing a major overhaul of gambling law, which will include the establishment of an independent regulatory authority for the gambling industry.

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Vincenzo Giuffré

Lawyer at DLA Piper IPT Italy, Milan| Gambling and Gaming Sector| eSports, Media, Sports and Entertainment | Bocconi University | University of Minnesota - W. Mondale Law School | Visiting Student at National University of Singapore (NUS)

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