Austrian court rules FIFA loot boxes breach gambling laws; orders Sony to refund customers

The Hermargor District Court in Austria has ruled that video game loot boxes count as gambling in an ongoing case against PlayStation and Electronic Arts, ordering Sony to offer a refund to the plaintiff that bought the FIFA Ultimate Team packs.

The Austrian court determined that FIFA Ultimate Team packs are “licensable games of chance” and that they have a “financial benefit within the meaning of the Austrian Gambling Act” because they can be resold on a secondary market, which could be a potential source of profit.

The lawsuits were filed against Sony rather than FIFA developer and publisher Electronic Arts because the loot boxes were purchased through the PlayStation Store, so the users’ purchasing contracts are with Sony. Since the packs count as gambling, Sony needs to have a gambling license that they do not have.

Padronus, a law firm that specializes in recovering losses from online casinos, told GamesWirtschaft that more than 1,000 FIFA users have been in contact with the company with claims of around €800 ($961.15), although some extreme cases go up to €85,000 ($90,571).

However, the court ordered Sony to refund payments of €338.26. The verdict is not yet final, as Sony is able to appeal against this decision. Since this is a smaller regional court, it will no doubt work its way up through the Austrian and European courts over the next few years.

Debate around whether loot boxes constitute gambling has been going on for several years, with FIFA Ultimate Team often at the center of discussions due to the franchise’s popularity.

The Netherlands was one of the first jurisdictions to rule that FIFA card parks violate gambling laws back in 2018, although this decision was overturned last year by the country’s highest administrative court.