The legality of the loot box is being questioned again, this time in Washington state.

As you might recall, back in October the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ruled that it would not label games containing loot box systems AO (Adults Only) because it did not believe they constituted gambling. The ESBR felt that since players do receive something in return for their money, it should be considered a purchase.

Other countries do not agree with the US board’s view. The Isle of Man has already defined them as gambling and the UK’s Parliament is considering similar measures. Belgium’s gaming commission also ruled loot boxes are hardly any different than slot machines. Australia feels the same way.

In the US, it has been pretty quiet since the ESRB made its decision but states are starting to push back. Hawaii began taking steps last month to attempt to get games containing “gambling mechanisms” (loot boxes) restricted to purchasers over the age of 21. This month, the state of Washington has joined the fray.

"If [parents] realised how predatory these game are then they wouldn't want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn't want them going to their kids."

According to GamesIndustry.biz, Senator Kevin Ranker (D) is looking at possible legislative measures to redefine the highly popular game mechanic. In his view, loot boxes are a form of gambling disguised as a kids game.

“It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something,” said Ranker.

His statement makes me think he is a little bit out of touch with reality but his sentiment is clear.

Senator Ranker has proposed a bill that will legally reclassify loot boxes and other MT mechanics as a form of gambling. The state legislators will be looking at four main factors in the bill.

  • Whether games and apps containing loot box mechanics are considered gambling under Washington law
  • Whether these mechanics belong in games and apps
  • Whether minors should have such ready access to games and apps that do feature loot boxes
  • The "lack of disclosure and transparency with respect to the odds of receiving each type of virtual item."

Lawmakers are asking the Washington State Gambling Commission to provide written recommendations on how to regulate games that use the mechanic and how to restrict sales to those under 21 years of age.

A deadline of December 1, 2018, has been set to decide on the bill.