Two and a half years ago, the Netherlands Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit or simply “Ksa”) classified the loot boxes in four games as gambling. One of them, FIFA, and its creator Electronic Arts, had its day in court recently — almost a year ago, as it turns out — and the final ruling came down this week to the tune of a €10 million fine.
GamesIndustry.biz is reporting that a Netherlands District Court upheld the Ksa’s ruling, saying that it is “crucial to shield vulnerable groups, such as minors, from exposure to gambling … As such, gambling elements have no place in games.” EA had the chance to remove the packs by June 20, 2018, an option the Ksa said it declined. EA is now “responsible for changing the game such that it is no longer in contravention of the law. How exactly it accomplishes this is at their discretion.”
The language of the ruling is notable; it doesn’t appear that the Ksa needed to prove that FIFA Ultimate Team packs were gambling, only that they resembled “gambling elements.” GI.biz noted that the Netherlands’ “Betting and Gaming Act is based on the assumption that games of chance carry with them a risk of gambling addiction.”
EA unsuccessfully argued that the forbidding FIFA Ultimate Team packs violated its rights to property and freedom of expression. The Ksa responded by saying that the Betting and Gaming Act’s commitment to public safety outweighed those rights and freedoms. EA also argued against making the amount of the fine public, so as not to damage its reputation, but it was ruled that doing so was in the public’s best interest.
Electronic Arts naturally resisted the ruling and has six weeks to appeal it. Even if the fine holds, €10 million is only about $11.6 million USD. Electronic Arts’ net bookings in its FY2021 (mid-2020 to mid-2021) was $5.98 billion, so the fine, if enforced, won’t impact the company’s business directly. But it could establish a precedent that other nations might be quick to pick up on and hand EA even greater losses.