US State Legislators Drafting a Law to Ban Minors from the Sale of Loot Boxes

US State Legislators Drafting a Law to Ban Minors from the Sale of Loot Boxes

US state legislators continue their efforts to ban selling loot boxes to minors, while also adding new video documents that are showing their efforts.  To get all the details about what is happening  keep reading.  

Sean Quinlan and Chris Lee are Hawaiian state legislators and have been gathering some enthusiasm for their efforts at ending loot box-style in-game purchases.  They have even started a YouTube series that is documenting the legislative process.  In their latest video we see Lee and Quinlan discussing how to draft a law with a lawyer to bring to the state legislature.

The idea behind the ban is to ban the sale of games with “gambling mechanisms” to anyone under the age of 21.  The law that is being discussed would target loot box-style purchases, where money goes towards a “percentage chance” of receiving an item.  The direct purchases of digital items are not being targeted.

Lee says:

“While a single state making a law wouldn’t legally prevent a game’s sale through most of the country, the resulting loss in revenue from bans in a handful of states would make publishers reticent to develop those games at all.”

What Lee hopes for is the pressure built up against loot box systems at the state level will then have a snowball effect on other states.  If some states were to ban loot boxes, then US retailers will be more reluctant to stock the games that have loot boxes.  This will then cut off one of the largest markets, and publishers will then be left to have to choose between having loot boxes or not.

December, 1st:

“Hawaiin representative Sean Quinlan hopes the pressure he’s helping to put on loot boxes will lead the industry to self-regulate.”

With the release of Battlefront II and the loot box controversy, worldwide governments noticed and started to form opinions on if these microtransactions constitute as a form of gambling.

Sean Quinlan had spoken with Rolling Stone on the issue at hand and stated:

“I know they [Electronic Arts] have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but I think they have a responsibility to customers too,”

“So the ESRB could say that if a game has loot crates, it gets a 21-plus rating. I wouldn’t want it to be a federal law. I think that could be a very slippery slope.”

Quinlan had also mentioned that he grew up playing games and still plays on his free time.  He saw the controversy on Reddit about the microtransactions and said he then:

“Realized just how bad it has gotten. We’ve been on this path for 15 years with day-one DLC, subscription passes, pay-to-win. We as consumers kept accepting that, kept buying those games.”

Representative Chris Lee had contacted him about the issue and they considered they could try to make a difference.

It remains unclear of how the efforts of Quinlan and Lee will turn out.  As for the UK, their Gambling Commission has determined that the purchasing of loot boxes does not meet the legal definition of gambling.  The organization is still concerned however, of the effects of microtransactions have on kids.  If the investigation managed to result in action, this will be limited to the state of Hawaii, but it would also open the door for more conversations in state governments in the US, and possibly at a federal level.

Quinlan did also state:

“As someone who has watched EA develop over the years and consume some of my favorite studios and destroy so many franchises, I don’t think this is going away. And I’m definitely going to stick to this. It’s an important issue for me.”

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Hawaiian representatives Chris Lee and Sean Quinlan held a press conference on November 20, 2017.  With Lee describing Battlefront II as:

“A Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money.”

“Referencing Admiral Ackbar, he goes further, saying “it’s a trap.” 

Lee had also stated:

“To protect those who are “not psychologically and emotionally mature enough to gamble” – particularly children – he will be “looking at legislation this coming year which could prohibit access, or prohibit the sale of these games, to folks who are underage, in order to protect families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms in those games.”

This press conference was posted on Reddit.  Lee followed a reply to a thread and says he and Quinlan have been in touch with their counterparts:

 “A number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue.”

He also condemned loot boxes as:

“Explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way [as] casino games,”

Before, loot boxes escaped the classification as gambling by national laws due to receiving a guaranteed reward with each purchase.  With this distinction it has prevented age ratings agencies like PEGI and ESRB from calling the loot boxes gambling, and need further political action before they can do so.

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