A Washington state politician says video game “loot boxes” could be classed as gambling. Kevin Ranker wants to force the state’s gambling commission to investigate the issue.
Ranker has introduced a bill in the state Senate that wouldn’t affect loot boxes themselves but rather would force the commission to carry out a formal study and make recommendations for any legislation that is needed. (It’s not clear if he tried simply asking them to do so before going down the lawmaking route.)
The study would have to address four issues, specifically:
- whether loot boxes count as gambling and thus come under existing law;
- whether they should be allowed in games at all;
- whether children should be allowed to access games with loot boxes; and
- whether games should be more transparent about the odds of a loot box containing a particular item.
If the bill passes, the commission would have to complete its study and provide findings, along with any recommended legislative and regulatory changes, by 1 December this year. That might not leave long given that the bill itself would take some time to become law (if it is passed.)
The issue of loot boxes as gambling has already come up with the Entertainment Software Rating Board rejecting calls to automatically rate games with loot boxes as suitable for adults only. Its argument was that a player purchasing a loot box always gets something for their money, unlike a gambler who might get nothing.
The counter-argument would be that the item in the box might be ‘less valuable’ than the payment price, though working out a real-world value of a game item is hardly a clear-cut task.