Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee introduces two pairs of bills for loot box regulation, including bills that would ban the sale of games with loot boxes to minors.
Democrative State Representative for Hawaii Chris Lee has been one of the key figures in the ongoing debate about video game loot boxes and whether they constitute gambling. Late last year, Lee launched an investigation into loot boxes and vowed to work on legislation in order to regulate the business model. Now, Lee’s efforts have taken a significant step forward.
Lee has submitted two pairs of bills to the United States House and Senate. The first pair of bills, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, proposes a ban on the sale of games with loot boxes to anyone under the age of 21. Retailers would be prohibited from selling any game that features a system that offers randomized rewards under these two pieces of legislation. Lee and his colleagues have previously spoken about this sort of legislation, saying that their proposed bills would include language so that they would affect digital game retailers as well as retailers that sell physical games.
The second pair of bills, House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would force developers and publishers to disclose loot box odds and would have to feature a warning that reads “Warning: contains in-game purchases and gambling-like mechanisms which may be harmful or addictive.” The bills state that “These predatory mechanisms… can present the same psychological, addictive, and financial risks as gambling,” and they also cite the controversial report by the World Health Organization that suggested that excessive gaming is a mental health disorder.
The United States would not be the first to introduce legislation that forces game creators to reveal loot box odds; Chinese law also led Blizzard to reveal Overwatch loot box odds. However, the proposed loot box ban would break new ground if those bills are successfully turned into law. As Lee himself notes in an interview with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, “If enough of the market reacts, the industry would have to respond and change its practices.” Lee also says that more than half of all states in the U. S. are working on loot box regulation.
Any such bill would certainly force developers and publishers to reconsider how they monetize their games moving forward. This could have serious ramifications, especially as 1 in 10 developers are working on games with loot boxes according to a recent survey.
There is still some time to go until that happens, however. Turning a bill into a law can still be a long process and includes being debated and voted on before the President signs it into law (the President does have the power to veto it). Watch this space for more developments.