Loot boxes continue to be a hot topic around the world. Germany is considering regulating in game purchases, including loot boxes. Sweden may classify loot boxes as a form of gambling. Belgium has already classified loot boxes as gambling. On the other side of the debate, New Zealand has decided loot boxes are not a form of gambling. In the United States, the federal government has yet to introduce any legislation regarding the issue. With the federal government’s failure to act, a couple of states have taken it upon themselves to take initial steps toward policing the sale of loot boxes.
In Washington, Senate Bill 6266, introduced on January 11, directs the Washington gambling commission to conduct a study considering whether loot box systems are gambling and what impact they have on minors, if any. The gambling commission would then recommend a proper course of action based on its study.
Hawaii’s legislature has taken a more proactive approach. Four bills have been introduced which would place certain prohibitions on the sale of games containing loot box systems. All four bills would amend Hawaii law concerning unfair and deceptive practices.
Senate Bill 3025 and House Bill 2727 require video game publishers that utilize any form of loot boxes to disclose and publish the drop rates for each item, as well as prominently displaying a warning label on their packaging. The warning label would read “Warning: contains in-game purchases and gambling-like mechanisms which may be harmful or addictive.” Publishers would be prohibited from modifying their games to include loot crates if they failed to place the warning on their game’s packaging.
Senate Bill 3024 and House Bill 2686 take a more direct and restrictive approach. These bills make it unlawful for retailers to sell video games utilizing loot box sales to anyone under the age of 21.
With four bills in the works, it seems likely at least one will reach the Hawaiian governor’s desk. As of February 8, Senate Bill 3024 is farthest on the path to becoming law. If it were to pass, anyone in the state of Hawaii under the age of 21 would be unable to purchase games containing loot box systems. The potential effectiveness of this law remains to be seen. Parents would likely unknowingly purchase games containing loot box sales for their kids. The law may be even more unrestrictive on the sale of digital content which only requires a customer to confirm their age by checking a box.
Regardless, if Hawaii were to successfully restrict the sale of loot boxes, perhaps a wave of similar laws would pass in other states. For now, loot boxes remain a lucrative source of income for many developers.