Just as the loot box controversy waters seemed to be calming, a Washington state senator has introduced a bill into the Legislature aimed at defining whether or not the mechanic in games constitutes gambling.
While the Washington Gambling Commission is aware of loot boxes, it has yet form an official position. Kevin Ranker, a Democratic state senator for Orcas Island, is now asking Washington officials and game developers to help reach a conclusion.
"What the bill says is, 'Industry, state: sit down to figure out the best way to regulate this,'" Ranker told the News Tribune. "It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something."
The bill highlights three major concerns: firstly whether games and apps containing loot box mechanics are considered gambling under Washington law; secondly whether these mechanics belong in games and apps; thirdly whether minors should have such ready access to games and apps that do feature loot boxes; and finally the "lack of disclosure and transparency with respect to the odds of receiving each type of virtual item."
A conclusion must be drawn upon no later than December 1, 2018. The Washington State Gambling Commission must provide written recommendations regarding how best to regulate the practice and, include options for the implementation of regulations restricting the sale of games containing loot box mechanics.
In the same way Apple recently changed its terms of service making loot box odds transparent in all games on the App Store, Ranker believes the odds for all such mechanics should be made public.
"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," he said.
As the latest and arguably the most significant case of a government body or official casting a gaze towards loot boxes, it highlights the gulf of opinion between politicians and the games industry. While the Belgian Gambling Commission and Hawaiian state representatives are approaching this issue with a great deal of concern - and seemingly ready to introduce legislation - the Entertainment Software Rating Board and publishers like EA continue to fervently deny that loot boxes are gambling.