The loot box saga continues as a Washington state Senator has presented a bill designed to investigate whether or not randomized in-game items qualify as gambling. Gamasutra first picked up the news today, sharing an interview with News Tribune in which Senator Kevin Ranker says the bill enlists Washington state and the video game industry to figure out how to regulate loot boxes.
“It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something,” Ranker said.
The bill, which you can find here, questions if the “mechanisms are considered gambling under Washington law.” The bill also wants to investigate if loot boxes belong in games, if minors should have access to such features, and “the lack of disclosure and transparency with respect to the odds of receiving” items. The Washington State Gambling Commission is conducting a study to investigate these topics. The commission will then present its findings and provide “recommendations regarding how to best regulate the practice of including loot boxes and similar types of mechanisms in online games and apps,” as well as “restrictions on the sale of games containing these mechanisms.”
For clarity, the proposed bill does not directly say legislation should be passed on loot boxes but instead proposes an investigation into the topic.
However, if they do find that the boxes need restriction, the recommendation will likely follow the same path other countries and even hosting platforms have taken. Apple now requires that all games featuring loot boxes display their drop rates, which is the same as many countries including China and possibly Belgium. The state of Hawaii has launched an investigation into EA for the loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II, Overwatch must now report drop rates for its loot boxes, and the UK Gambling Comission has released a statement indicating that they do not consider loot boxes to be a form of gambling, which is the same line the ESRB has taken in the United States. The ESA also defends loot boxes as “not a form of gambling,” but rather “a voluntary feature that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences.”