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Counter-Strike crates blocked in Belgium & Netherlands

Okay, things could be going better here.

Presumably in order to adhere to new gambling rules pertaining to loot boxes, players in the Netherlands and Belgium are now blocked from opening key-locked boxes in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This is following their announcement last month, where CS:GO and Dota 2 market trading was blocked for Dutch players (as covered here by Eurogamer), with promises that a “less inconvenient” solution would be coming.

While loot boxes are now forever-sealed for Belgian & Dutch players, the previous Netherlands-exclusive restriction on item trading has been lifted, according to yesterday’s patch notes:

“Updated Steam and CS:GO account restrictions for users in Netherlands and Belgium:”
“Steam Trading and Steam Market features are now re-enabled for Steam accounts in Netherlands.”
“Customers in Netherlands and Belgium will be restricted from opening containers”

While opening loot boxes is restricted for Belgian and Netherlands-based accounts, players can purchase the contents of other people’s loot boxes directly through the Steam Market – ironically a key part of the equation that caused the Belgian Gaming Commission to declare loot boxes an exercise in gambling. While buying direct is a reasonable proposition for the majority of CS:GO skins, it does mean that rare and super-expensive liveries are now likely to be the sole domain of comically wealthy players (or those who got in pre-restriction) in these two countries.

Hats like these.

The Belgian Gaming Commission’s decision does not apply to all loot boxes, but rather ones specifically adhering to a set of rules closely enough to consider it gambling. There needs to be a bet that can lead to profit or loss, as well as an element of chance. In Valve’s case, you paid £1.79/$2 per crate unlock key (which sounds like a bet to me), you could end up with an item far less or more valuable than the key paid for it, and the unofficial skin-trading market provides a route to cash out. Sounds like gambling.

At present, Valve’s other crate-filled games – Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 – seem unaffected (at least according to their recent patch notes), although that may change. They operate under a fundamentally identical system to Counter-Strike, although perhaps have flown under the radar as they’ve sparked less gambling-related controversy. At least for the time being, Belgians can still acquire the Belgian Detective hat the way God (and Valve) intended: Through blind luck.

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