The highest court in the Netherlands has ruled that card packs in FIFA Ultimate Team are not a form of gambling. The ruling overturns a decision from 2019 that ruled that they were, and rescinds a €10 million fine given to EA for breaching Dutch gambling law.
"The Gaming Authority should not have imposed a penalty payment on the publisher of the FIFA22 computer game in 2019," says the statement announcing the decision by the Netherlands' Council Of State. "The so-called packs or 'loot boxes' with which virtual football players can be traded on a virtual transfer market in FIFA22 are not games of chance that required a license. The publisher has not broken the law."
Part of the ruling concerns whether FIFA Ultimate Teams constitutes "an isolated game" unto itself, which the court ultimately decided was not the case. "They are part of a game of skill and add an element of chance to the game," says the ruling. The full ruling is available online in Dutch.
"This decision confirms our belief that no aspect of FIFA or FIFA Ultimate Team can be considered gambling under Dutch law," EA said in a statement given to Polygon. "At Electronic Arts our approach to game design puts choice, fun, fairness and value first. Our priority has always been to make sure that our players in the Netherlands and across the world have a positive experience."
The original ruled ordered EA to remove card packs from the game and to face a €500k fine for each week they failed to comply, up to a maximum amount of €10 million. EA did not comply and decided to appeal the decision. This is opposed to a similar situation in Belgium, where a ruling regarding loot boxes led to EA to stop selling card packs in 2019, after which many other developers followed suit.
EA have made changes to FIFA Ultimate Team in response to a growing wave of regulation around the world. FIFA 22, for example, lets players look inside loot boxes before purchasing them.
While this ruling concerns what exactly is and is not considered gambling under Dutch law, that's separate from any question regarding the quality and ethics of FIFA Ultimate Team. We can make our own judgement, there.