Washington State Senate addresses loot box question

Washington State Senate addresses loot box question

Friday, February 2, 2018 Posted by Michael Lawson
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A Democrat senator believes they constitute gambling.

Washington state Senator Kevin Ranker is the latest official to seek clarity over the highly divisive use of loot boxes in video games. The Democrat and former San Juan County Commissioner has charged the State Gambling Commission with identifying whether or not the boxes constitute gambling.

Along with fellow Democrat Senators Reuven Carlyle and Karen Keiser, Ranker submitted Senate Bill 6266 to the Washington Legislature, asking for the Washington state gambling commission to conduct a study looking into whether “mechanisms that provided randomised virtual items in online games or apps” should be considered gambling under Washington law.

The bill asks for the Washington state gambling commission to conduct a study that looks into whether video games that use loot boxes that contain "mechanisms that provided randomized virtual items in online games or apps" should be considered gambling under Washington law.

The bill also wants to examine if these mechanisms have any place in games whatsoever. Perhaps more importantly, the bill wants to put in motion an examination into if minors and young people," who may be more vulnerable to gambling addiction," should have access to games with loot boxes. Furthermore, the Senators are calling out game developers for the "lack of disclosure and transparency" about loot box odds.

Speaking to Washington’s News Tribune, Ranker was highly critical of games containing loot boxes. He argued: “If [parents] realised how predatory these games are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids.”

This is far from the first time that loot boxes have came under scrutiny. Last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront II game was thrust into the international limelight due to it employing loot boxes that required users to make microtransactions – on top of the £40+ already paid to purchase the game.

Jeff Ifrah, gaming law expert and founding member of Ifrah Law, told TotallyGaming.com: "Loot boxes don't implicate gambling concerns because they only award non-monetary in-game prizes. However, there are certainly legitimate concerns regarding the adequacy of disclosures and it is good to see Washington state legislators taking a proactive role to address them."

Totally Gaming says: Loot boxes continue to cause a stir and the state of Washington is the latest to question whether or not they ought to constitute gambling. If the state does rule against them, it may well open the floodgates for a number of other states.

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