Washington state senator proposes lockbox gambling investigation in new bill

Hawaiian politicians are getting some company on the lockbox front from a compatriot in Washington state.

State Senator Kevin Ranker has introduced legislation there that forces the gaming industry and state gambling officials to determine whether lootboxes/lockboxes in video games constitute gambling under state law – and whether they target minors. According to the Tacoma-based News Tribune, Ranker is pushing specifically for regulation that results in the publication of odds for lockbox mechanics in video games.

“If (parents) realized how predatory these game are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids,” he reportedly said.

Should the provisional bill pass, the determination must be made by December of this year.

Source: Washington Senate Bill 6266, News Tribune via GIbiz. Thanks, Paragonlostinspace and Fábio.
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Sally Bowls

Now that the demise of lootboxes is imminent, these fine politicians can focus on the truly important stuff.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/29/16948090/elon-musk-boring-company-flamethrower-california-sales-ban-miguel-santiago

The Verge says they ordered a flamethrower: will MOP? :-)

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dinwitt

Think of the children! Who have been buying Pokemon card packs marketed at them for years and baseball card packs for decades, but there was no political capital to gain by speaking out against those so it was fine. And while most loot boxes aren’t aimed directly at children like the booster packs of various children’s card games, its still outrageous that children can buy loot boxes if their parents haven’t locked down the phones properly. So lets legislate that, and ignore the inconsistency of leaving physical loot boxes alone, because of the children.

That being said, I don’t have a problem with requiring them to show the odds. I believe that’s the law of the land for gacha games over in Japan, and they don’t seem to suffer for it. And its not talk about legislating loot boxes that annoys me, its using the children as an excuse. If you really wanted to protect the children from this kind of thing then there would have been debates years ago about all of the physical loot boxes actually targetted at them.

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Sally Bowls

I had an IANAL shower thought:

Why are all these posts that could be well-intentioned but perhaps motivated with some desire for publicity, at the state level?

The theory is that a state or two could effectively shut down the interstate sale of these games by outlawing them – making them de facto not de jure impractical for all but the largest companies to sell nationwide by keeping up with 50ish different, changing laws? Wouldn’t it be better for incorporated cities/towns of a state to do that (outlaw/regulate) lockboxes for children? There are nineteen thousand in the US vs 50 states. There have to be several “Berkley”s where “remember the children” and “watchdog those evil multinationals” would be an easy sell. Hell, out of the 19k, there have to be several where the majority are still grumpy about how much their ex spent on Candy Crush. You don’t exactly have to be Washington or Lincoln to be a city councilperson. If 32,000 people commented to NYC in support of the eventual outlawing the sale of something as evil as a half-liter Diet Coke, then there have to be several municipalities to favor about any “remember the children”, anti-business issue.

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Armsbend

On first glance that looked like anal shower thought.

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Bhima Jenkins

The State has no interest in outlawing the games, as the blowback would be much more politically damaging than the utility of outlawing said game would give back. Rather, states may look to regulate lootbox gambling, requiring the games to post the odds somewhere, or adding two-step authentication to purchases to reduce the likelihood of a child going nuts with their parents’ money.

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drgreenhoe

I hope this is just the beginning of a movement to stop this preying on people. It is no different than a lottery for the young and those prone to be weak towards gambling. Like a state sanctioned lottery they are merely taxes on those who can not really afford it.

Alyn
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Alyn

I support what Kevin is attempting to start. Remember this is only a small motion forward. This will take some time to catch on. Eventually these winds of equality and consumer justice will move us forward.

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Toy Clown

I’m glad to see some momentum on cracking down on this. It’s a smart angle to take that it’s targeting kids. That always gets attention.

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Arktouros

Really not sure how this would work.

If a company is located in, say, Texas can it be compelled by Washington state law? Wouldn’t it be easier to get out of a state who wants to forcibly regulate your industry if you are in WA? Look how many issues Amazon has with things like state taxes and the like, imagine that nonsense with state level rules on what games/entertainment can have. It’s just kinda nonsensical.

I don’t think it’ll ever actually go anywhere when they determine it’s not gambling again but still this just seems a weird way to approach it.

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angrakhan

Well I’m no lawyer but my guess is the strategy works like this:
1) Pass the law in Washington.
2) Non-Washington-based company has an mmo (internet based game) that violates this law.
3) Washington DA issues a subpoena to said company
4) Company says Washington has no jurisdiction
5) Washington DA says we do have jurisdiction because you’re doing business in Washington state (internet)
6) Company appeals to a higher court
7) Eventually lands in Supreme Court
8) Becomes Federal law

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Sally Bowls

I am not sure how #5 applies (at least until after April when the supreme court decides South Dakota vs Wayfair, which seeks to overturn ND vs Quill which says that a company is not required to collect sales tax in a state unless they have a “substantial physical presence.” I.e., currently if a company sells billions of dollars to WA citizens then they do not have to collect sales taxes for WA unless the company has a “substantial physical presence” in WA, IANAL, but a company selling to WA citizens seems like they are doing business in WA, yet they are currently immune to WA sales tax law. IDK

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Altexist

You are discussing two different issues. South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. is seeking to overturn Quill Corp. v. North Dakota and reevaluate the limits of the Dorman Commerce Clause. Taking into about the fact that Quill was decided in 1992 and The Court did not have a complete understanding of what internet commerce was going to become at the time and current makeup of the court, Quill will most likely be overturned.
As for Washington state’s (or any states’) ability to claim jurisdictions over business entities that are not physical in the state has long been settled from a case originating in Washington state, none the less. See International Shoe Co. v. Washington 326 U.S. 310 (1945). The bottom line is, that if Washington state passed a law banned lock-box, the most likely outcome would be that any company located inside or incorporated in Washington would not be allowed to sell them online. Additionally, companies would not be allowed to sell them to residents of Washington State. There are current state laws that are similar this.

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angrakhan

Thank you, hence my point about #5. They would need to figure out a way to determine by state where each user was and apply different game rules. I’m not sure there’s some way to reliably do that especially with service providers that operate near the border. Would they segment IP subnets right along the state line just to keep the lootbox companies out of trouble? I doubt it. Moreover someone will actively seek to try and get the company in trouble by getting the company to sell them a lockbox in Washington because people are cool like that.

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Altexist

Last time I checked, which was some time ago, a few states that allowed gambling were developing ways to let in-states residents the ability to gambling online with in-state entities. I am unsure of how the mechanics of how such a system works, but I would assume a similar system could be implemented in this case.
In the long run, it would be better for gaming companies to come together now and hammer out a self-regulatory system that eliminated the possibility of “predatory” lock-box practices but yet remained “fair” and profitable before legislators pass laws without a full understanding of the technical and social nuances of online gaming.

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Arktouros

I guess I don’t see where the leap from 5 to 6 would come into play.

Lets say Company says no jurisdiction, and state tries them without them, what can they do? Eliminate physical sales of a digitally distributed game? They initiated the process and used the internet to access out of state services. Who, or what, is there to sue and who or what can enforce any of that? Why even appeal to higher court?

That’s why I say this doesn’t seem to make sense. Maybe someone more familiar with the law can clarify things, but it seems like if you wanna go state to state you gotta go federal otherwise there’s nothing there to rule or enforce.

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Armsbend

They’d have to put up the odds in Washington State – which would effectively post them everywhere.

States can pass laws specific to them that can have farther reaching consequences. For one example the Xbox had this dumb arcade trivia game on their system which was free where you got some hats for your avatar etc. A friend of mine was from CN and could take part in that aspect of the game because of their sweepstakes law.

Connecticut General Statutes 42-301 – Sweepstakes or promotional drawing. Restrictions. Violations. Exceptions

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Arktouros

Couldn’t they, then, similarly just eliminate Washington from being able to purchase specific things? Even if someone from WA managed to buy something from there how would they even seek recompense? The other company is located in another state where those laws don’t apply. There’s no way to enforce that unless the company has a physical presence in WA. Oh, boo hoo, you’re going to boycott physical sales of their products in the digital distribution age?

Again, all this makes no sense and it’s people designing laws for things they don’t seem to really understand.

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Schmidt.Capela

AFAIK by selling to someone that lives in Washington the company is doing business in Washington and thus subject to the laws of the state, at least regarding the product or service being sold.

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Arktouros

I guess where my question was more at okay, I understand that part, but what course of action do they have to get recompense?

How can you enforce your state laws in other states?

IE: Lets say it’s part of your EULA that you said they agreed they werent’ from Washington and couldn’t download/play the game if they’re from Washington and the player does it anyways. That player then goes and reports it’s playing from that state and they didn’t get lockbox odds. State finds the business in violation, which the business says no one from WA can play we’ve since banned that player. WA state doesn’t care presses forward with case and finds company guilty!

Okay, fine, but what does that mean? What does that do? Even if they fine them, how can they collect their fine across state lines?

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Zora

“If (parents) realized how predatory these game are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids,” he reportedly said.

If parents actually -cared- they would probably doublecheck what they are putting under the tree rather than seek a cheap cyber-nanny in videogames, TV or the likes and expect the state to police their parenting for them, your honour… :P

If you hand over your mobile to lil Timmy to keep him quiet for a hour, don’t act surprised when you get a bill of a few thousand from some crappy game and tabloids storm your house to hear your story!

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angrakhan

Or just enable the setting that requires your password to buy anything in the store? It’s not that hard.

https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1626831?hl=en

Duey Bear
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Duey Bear

Ideally this will be solved my forcing all games with chance based microtransactions to get the M rating. Many companies would voluntarily drop lootboxes so that they can market to the youth audience.

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Armsbend

And having display exact odds on every pull. Just like lotto tickets are compelled to do.

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Schmidt.Capela

If lockboxes and its ilk are determined to be gambling then the regulations of gambling would apply. This includes publishing the odds and making it illegal to manipulate the odds, plus a bunch of regulations to make gambling less enticing to kids.

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Sally Bowls

This includes publishing the odds and making it illegal to manipulate the odds,

Where did this come from? A large (biggest) part of casino gambling is slot machines. They certainly don’t publish the odds. And certainly, the casinos can change the odds frequently.

If multibillion dollar casino gambling does not have to disclose or fix the odds, then why should gaming companies?

P.S.: The above is supposed to be a link to a NY Times article but sometimes links here show images or thumbnails or what not that I can neither understand or control.

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Armsbend

Marketing to children is the main reason you’ll be able to push legislation through to gaming and not say – casinos. I guess it is okay for slot machines because only losers go all the way to a desert casino to play a mutherfucking slot machine.

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Coolit

This certainly sends a signal, Washington too :)