‘Predatory’ video game loot boxes catch US lawmaker’s ire

'Predatory' video game loot boxes catch US lawmaker's ire

A Washington State lawmaker has opened an inquiry into the loot box model of microtransactions in console games to determine whether it should be considered gambling.

'Predatory' video game loot boxes catch US lawmaker's ireThe News Tribune reported that State Senator Kevin Ranker filed a bill to clarify whether loot boxes and other purchases in video games are gambling disguised as a game.

“What the bill says is, ‘Industry, state: sit down to figure out the best way to regulate this,’” Ranker said, according to the news outlet. “It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something.”

Ranker’s proposed bill might go beyond regulating loot boxes due to the measure’s vague language. The general idea of Ranker’s bill was if a game looks like gambling then it should be regulated as gambling.

The senator also wants the odds for chance-based purchases to be made public to help kids and parents determine whether or not they are gambling.

“If (parents) realized how predatory these games are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids,” Ranker said.

The Washington Gambling Commission has yet to come up with a clear position on loot boxes, although it said that it’s aware about the issue.

The issue whether these in-game purchases should be considered gambling continues to divide regulators across the globe. In November, Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens wanted to prohibit loot boxes, saying the in-game purchases were “dangerous for the mental health of the child.”

The UK Gambling Commission and the Gambling Compliance Office of New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs both agreed that loot boxes did not meet the legal definition of gambling.

In the U.S., the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a nonprofit that rates video games for age-appropriateness, ruled video games offering so-called ‘loot boxes’ won’t be classified as containing gambling content. This declaration didn’t prevent the state of Hawaii from labeling loot boxes as videogame-themed online casinos designed to lure kids into spending.