Netherlands court rules FIFA Ultimate Team’s player packs as illegal, EA to appeal

There could be a huge fine in store for EA.

Image via EA Sports

The District Court of The Hague deemed Electronic Arts’ popular FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) player packs to be in violation of the Netherlands’ Betting and Gaming Act, according to an official verdict published today.

Dirk Scholing, country manager for EA Benelux, said the company was “disappointed by this decision and what it may mean to our Dutch community” in a statement to PCGamesN.

“We do not believe that our products and services violate gambling laws in any way,” Scholing said. “We are appealing this decision and we seek to avoid a situation impacting the ability of Dutch players to fully experience and enjoy FIFA Ultimate Team.”

Scholing added that EA remained “deeply committed to positive play,” seeking “to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to all our players.” The company will “remain open to discussions with the Netherlands Gambling Authority and other stakeholders to understand and explore solutions.”

It comes as no surprise that EA would want to keep one of its biggest sources of profit on the market. Purchases made for FUT racked up almost $1.5 billion in net revenue for the 2020 fiscal year, according to the 2020 financial report from EA. That amounted to 27 percent of the company’s net profit, “a substantial portion of which was derived from FIFA Ultimate Team.”

The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) compared FUT’s player packs to loot boxes since its contents are determined by chance and can’t be outwardly influenced. The corresponding player cards have high values and can be traded as a commodity, which breaches the Gambling Act.

“Under Dutch law, a game of chance that allows a prize or premium to be won can only be provided if a relevant license has been granted,” the KSA said. “The KSA believes it is crucial to shield vulnerable groups, such as minors, from exposure to gambling.”

The KSA believes that “gambling elements have no place in games,” supporting a clear boundary between the two. The organization called for EA to remove said gambling elements from its FUT system entirely or be subjected to a €500,000 ($585,000) fine for every week the service is live, up to a maximum of €5 million ($5.85 million).

The KSA has been investigating the matter since 2018 and mentioned that the “issue is by no means unique to the Netherlands.” In February, two lawsuits were reportedly filed in France against FUT, with one lawyer saying the game mode has “the logic of a casino.”